In this week’s news update, three oilfield companies in New Mexico and Texas were required to pay out over $1 million in back wages, and the drinking water study in Wyoming is under investigation by the EPA.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review is showing that Wyoming regulators downplayed health concerns, glossed over ambiguities and made unsubstantiated claims about the source of contamination in their study of the polluted drinking water east of Pavillion, Wyoming.

Those findings, delivered in comments to the state in early March, raised questions over state officials’ contention that natural gas operators are not responsible for pollution found in some water wells outside the community of roughly 230 people.

A draft study released by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality in December said fracking likely played little role in polluting water wells in the Pavillion area and said it was due to naturally occurring pollutants.

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The EPA repeatedly questioned those claims in its review of the state study, saying Wyoming investigators lacked the evidence, or relied on limited proof, to make their assertions.

State officials have not offered a timeline for when the report will be finalized.

Companies Pay Workers $1.5M in Back Wages, Damages
Oilfield companies in New Mexico and west Texas have paid workers $1.5 million in back wages and damages following a federal investigation, according to the Associated Press.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced March 24 that Nova Mud Inc., Nova Hardbandings LLC and Nova Sand LLC, violated overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The report says the companies paid employees fixed semimonthly salaries without regard to the number of hours they actually worked, resulting in overtime violations when the employees worked more than 40 hours a week.

The companies also signed an agreement with the department requiring them to take measures to ensure workers are paid accordingly in the future.

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Rig Count Declines by 12
The number of rigs seeking oil and natural gas in the U.S. declined by 12 to 464 last week in numbers released by Baker Hughes on March 25.

The Houston-based oilfield services company says 372 were seeking oil (down by 15 from the previous week) and 92 were looking for natural gas (up by three from the previous week).

Last year 1,046 rigs were active.

Texas declined by eight rigs last week to 209, while Oklahoma went down by three, Alaska by two and Kansas and Pennsylvania each by one.

Louisiana increased by two rigs, while Arkansas, California, Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming all remained unchanged.

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