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EPA Cleared In Latest Report On North Texas Drinking Water Contamination Case

Mike Norton
Wikimedia Commons

Texas Matters: The Environmental Protection Agency drew fire from gas interests and politicians in how it handled the case in Parker County, which is west of Fort Worth, but the new report finds the agency followed all laws and rules in the investigation. Also on this show: Oil lobby contests crude oil export policy, Texas Monthly's Bum Steer Award(s) and a holiday tamale making tradition.

The Fracking Water Games: Catching Fire

In 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered that drinking water needed to be provided to several Parker County families after their water wells were contaminated by nearby natural gas drilling.

One resident said the water became cloudy, bubbly and could actually catch fire.

The case became a flash point between residents who feared that local natural gas hydraulic fracking operations were causing health and environmental damage. When the EPA stepped in, Texas political figures accused the agency of government overreach. In 2011 there was a settlement in the case and the water order was lifted.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn and five other senators called for an investigation into the case. Cornyn was quoted saying, "The EPA has systematically targeted Texas through burdensome regulatory overreach, putting politics ahead of facts and due process."

This week a report by the EPA Office of Inspector General -- the internal watchdog of the EPA -- found no wrongdoing on the part of the agency, but said there were still questions about the water contamination.

At the center of the case was then-EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Armendariz, who had oversight of Texas. Armendariz talks about the new report, which essentially clears his name.

"The conclusion of the watchdog, the inspector general's office, is that the EPA followed the law and all applicable rules and regulations when it conducted its investigation."

Armendariz came under fire and was forced to resign after a video surfaced showing him likening his approach at the EPA to Roman conquerors who used crucifixion to deter dissent

"You are right that I became somewhat of the target of accusations by Sen. Cornyn and others who were doing their best to protect an industry that has bankrolled many politicians from Texas for a very long time. But my focus was on what did the science show and what does the law say? And making sure everything we did conformed with the evidence that was in front of us and the best science that we had. If that meant that we eventually were going to take action that made a particular company angry or politicians angry then it was my job to support the staff and to deflect that criticism and to show people that what we were doing was in the best interest of Texans."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Oil lobby speaks out against ban on crude oil exports

The energy boom in the Permian Basin of West Texas is driving one of the nation’s fastest growing regional economies. But growth is tied to the price of oil and some prominent energy analysts suggest the price of crude will fall in 2014. Lorne Matalon of Marfa Public Radio looks at what a price drop might mean.

Credit Texas Monthly
Bum Steer News.

2014 Bum Steer Awards

The end of the year means it’s time to look back at the biggest goof balls of Texas of 2013. Texas Monthly calls them the Bum Steers  and Editor and Chief Jake Silberstein joins for a look.

Jack Silberstein is the editor and chief of Texas Monthly – the 2013 bum steer award is shared by the Houston Astros, The Houston Texans and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

Keeping the Christmas tradition of tamale making alive

The holidays are not over yet – and many in Texas know that this is the season for feasting on tamales.

Tamale making is as much a part of the culinary custom as eating them and if you want to join that tasty holiday tradition you’ll need some coaching before you plunge your hands into the masa.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi