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Encana allowed to pump wastewater into aquifer

Irina Zhorov

During its hearing today/Tuesday, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reaffirmed its earlier decision to grant Encana an exemption that permits them to pump produced water deep into the Madison aquifer. The injection well is located about 60 miles west of Casper.

The oil and gas development company asked for the exemption based on the Commission’s economic and technological impracticality criteria…which grants an exemption based on the idea that it’s impractical to use the aquifer for drinking water anyway.

Both the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initially expressed concerns with the plan, D-E-Q has retracted its concerns after hearing from Encana. The EPA has not reacted to the Commission’s decision. 

Encana’s Moneta Divide Project Manager, Paul Ulrich says it’s rare for the impracticality criteria to be used, but Encana felt it was appropriate in this case. 

"We took a look at many other potential sources of water that could be used at shallower depths, and at much shallower depth, and our analysis demonstrated to us and clearly to the Commission that there are many other sources that would be used for many many many years, 50, 100, years instead of drilling a 15,000 foot, $10 million well."

However, the Powder River Basin Resource Council says it’s a bad idea to remove a potential source of drinking water in a place where water shortages could get even more acute in the future.

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications.
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