John Fenton

john-fenton-photo-close-cropJohn Fenton is a farmer from Pavillion Wyoming who has been living with pollution of ground water and air pollution, land use and other effects of the gas industry.  John and his wife Catherine have 24 gas wells on their farm.  John Fenton featured in the Gasland film.

In 2008 the US EPA investigated discoloured ground water in Pavillion. Pavillion, is one of the most isolated areas of the United States.  A small irrigation area in the middle of Wyoming, 300 miles drive from the state capital Cheyenne. The Grand Tetons and Yellow Stone National Park are situated a few hours west.

About 200 unconventional gas wells have been drilled in the district one of which is only 100 meters from John Fenton’s house. Pavillion came to international attention after the United States Environmental Protection Authority found that fracking had contaminated the water.

In 2010 the EPA warned Pavillion residents not to drink the water and use a fan when bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion, after it found the water contaminated with dangerous chemicals and methane caused by fracking for gas.  Later the EPA was pressured to end their investigation.

Josh Fox visited the Pavillion area when making his film Gasland.  He interviewed farmer Lewis Meeks whose water well exploded with high pressure gas and whose water from his new well smells like diesel. Neighbour Jeff Locker has had a reverse osmosis machine installed in a shed to provide water, with unsatisfactory results.

The gas company, EnCana, now trucks in drinking water for local farmers even though they refuse to admit liability. Some residents eat from paper plates because they cannot wash dishes without contamination, and they must open their windows when they have a shower.  The water flowing out of the bores and taps smells like diesel and can be lit if contained in a jar. Several people in the district have developed neuropathy or other health ailments.  Animals in the area have also become sick.

Local farmers also suffer from gas land use clashing with agriculture, with well pads, access roads, pipelines, truck visits and compressor stations all affecting farm operations.

Both the gas industry and the state of Wyoming put enormous pressure on the EPA to back away from its initial findings that fracking for gas had contaminated the water. The EPA cracked and agreed to hand the study over to the state of Wyoming whose research will be funded by EnCana, the very company whose gas wells may have caused the contamination.

John Fenton has become a leading activist in the US against unconventional gas.  He has a great story to tell and is an effective and authentic communicator.

John Fenton toured the east coast of Australia in Feburary and March of 2014  to sound a warning to Australian media, decision-makers and audiences as to the consequences of fracking for unconventional gas and the long-term effects of a mature unconventional gas industry.