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Baseline Water Testing Proposal Lauded

PHOTO: Jon Goldstein, senior energy policy manager at the Environmental Defense Fund, says every state with oil and gas development should be keeping an eye on Wyoming's move to conduct baseline groundwater testing. Photo courtesy of EDF
PHOTO: Jon Goldstein, senior energy policy manager at the Environmental Defense Fund, says every state with oil and gas development should be keeping an eye on Wyoming's move to conduct baseline groundwater testing. Photo courtesy of EDF
July 17, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. - Wyoming is taking a new approach for oil and gas development that reflects concerns over the groundwater pollution around Pavillion.

The Oil and Gas Commission voted Tuesday to set rules for baseline water testing - testing wells around each drilling site before any drilling happens.

Jon Goldstein, senior energy policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, said it sets the stage for other states to do the same.

"I think all states with oil and gas development ought to be looking at what Wyoming's doing, for sure," Goldstein said. "We're really happy with the leadership Gov. (Matt) Mead has shown."

Colorado has a similar rule, but Goldstein labels it as "weaker," because of fewer wells tested and a lack of sampling protocols, which can lead to data problems. The oil and gas industry has generally been supportive of the move to do baseline water testing.

The initial Wyoming rule sets standards for how to take samples and what to look for. Goldstein called that "quality science."

"All of these tests will be performed in the same way," he said. "All the samples will be taken in the same way. That way, you really get apples to apples, in terms of the results that come out."

Goldstein stressed that it's important to follow water quality over time on a well-by-well basis as development takes place. Also, the rules are not set yet; that comes after the commission holds more hearings and gathers more information.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY