Investors Call on WPX Energy to Abandon Plan to Take Drinking Water Tank from Pennsylvania Family

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John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment America

PHILADELPHIA, PA. — Echoing demands of PennEnvironment and Environment America, Green Century Capital Management and nine other investors today delivered a letter (below) to WPX Energy calling on the company to stop its plan to remove the drinking water storage tank at the home of Tammy Manning in Franklin Forks, Pa. WPX sought and obtained a court order, which allows the company to seize the water tank from the Mannings on or after Dec. 16.

“Fracking operations are now leaving families like the Mannings deprived of their drinking water not once, but twice,” said Erika Staaf, clean water advocate for PennEnvironment. “We urge WPX to publicly and permanently abandon any plans to seize water tanks from Pennsylvania families.”

After WPX began operations at two nearby fracking wells, the Mannings discovered that their drinking water well was contaminated. As Tammy Manning explains in a new Breakthroughs segment with Environment America, her granddaughter Madison began suffering bouts of nausea, which only ceased when the family shut off its water well and began relying on water deliveries to the storage tank that WPX is now planning to seize.

State tests revealed several contaminants in the Manning’s water well – including barium, which is linked to gastrointestinal dysfunction, and methane, which put the family at risk from fire or explosion. State officials also found faulty well casings on WPX’s drilling wells, and urged the company to provide water to the families and vent their wells. Yet the state now rejects claims that WPX caused contamination of the Manning’s water well.

“This is our water we’re talking about,” said Tammy Manning. “This is what fracking is doing to us and our communities.”

The WPX-Manning episode is a small window into how fracking operations threaten drinking water in Pennsylvania and beyond. This fall, Environment America’s “Fracking by the Numbers” report documented numerous instances of water contamination—from well blowouts to frack-fluid spills to leaks of toxic fracking waste—along with other environmental impacts.

For all these reasons, Environment America and its state affiliates are working to stop fracking wherever we can. Just this week, the City of Dallas and Erie County, NY became the latest communities to effectively stop fracking within their borders.

The incident also reveals the impunity with which the industry often operates.

“Time and again, we have seen the oil and gas industry operate with callous arrogance here–placing gag orders on doctors and on residents who dare to seek justice in our courts, pressing Harrisburg to strip away communities’ say over drilling operations within their borders, and illegal dumping of fracking waste,” observed Staaf. “Seizing a tank that is a family’s only access to drinking water—that is par for the course.”

The Letter:

December 11, 2013

Ralph A. Hill, President and Chief Executive Officer
CC. Stephen E. Brilz, Vice President and Corporate Secretary
WPX Energy, Inc.
One Williams Center
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74172

Dear Mr. Hill,

The undersigned investors believe that companies that attend to environmental and social risks may enjoy competitive advantages. We are writing to urge WPX Energy Appalachia LLC (WPX) to respect community concerns and environmental impacts associated with its hydraulic fracturing operations.

In particular, we urge the company to stop its effort to remove the drinking water tank of the family of Tammy Manning. The DEP requested that WPX install these tanks after finding dangerously high levels of barium, aluminum, iron, and methane in the Mannings water. These tanks provide critical drinking water to a family whose water would otherwise be unsafe to drink.

Hydraulic fracturing operations are increasing[ly] controversial and WPX’s recent actions to remove clean drinking water from the Manning family have increased the reputational risk for the company and its shareholders. The companies’ decision to remove the drinking water tank has resulted in negative media attention for the company and risks damaging the company’s community relations. Removing the Manning’s access to safe drinking water risks positioning WPX as a corporation that is not concerned with the well-being or basic human needs of residents living near its operations.

Unfortunately for shareholders, this recent high profile set of actions by WPX is not the only negative publicity that resulted from company inattentiveness to its operations and its public relations. Over the past year, Pennsylvania state regulators have called on WPX vent four wells that had dangerous levels of methane and test water sources in local towns. WPX also received a series of state violation notices for its drilling.

Companies are increasingly held responsible for its environmental and social risks and management. We urge WPX to immediately drop its plans to remove the drinking water tank from the Mannings and make its change public.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Leslie Samuelrich
Green Century Capital Management

Barbara Jennings
Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment

Ruth Geraets, PBVM
Sisters of the Presentation of the BVM

Mecky Kessler-Howell
Financial Advisor
Progressive Asset Management Group

Nora Nash
Director Corporate Social Responsibility
Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia

Judy Byron, OP
Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment

Valerie Heinonen
Director, Shareholder Advocacy
Ursulines of Tildonk for Justice and Peace

Natasha Lamb
Director of Equity Research & Shareholder Engagment
Arjuna Capital

Julie N.W. Goodridge
President & CEO
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.

Sonia Kowal
Director of Socially Responsible Investing
Zevin Asset Management