DEP’s Unauthorized Water Withdrawal Program

July 26, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department of Environmental Protection Unlawfully Permitting Water
Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in Western Pennsylvania
Only riparian owners can make use of water in streams and rivers

Natural gas companies have descended on Pennsylvania’s forests and
farmlands to drill into the Marcellus Shale.  Each Marcellus Shale gas
well requires millions of gallons of water for the drilling process.
That water is taken from Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers under the
alleged authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP).  The DEP, however, does not have the authority to
permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania.

In central and eastern Pennsylvania, water withdrawals are managed by
the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin
Commission.
Congress created the two commissions as federal-interstate compacts
with
the authority to permit water withdrawals within their respective
basins.
The rest of Pennsylvania, most of which is in the Ohio River basin, is
governed by riparian rights common law, which allows only the owner of
property along a watercourse to withdraw water for use on their land.
There is no state law regulating water withdrawals other than for
municipal drinking water supplies.

In a letter sent to DEP Secretary John Hanger, the Allegheny Defense
Project (ADP) outlined the current state of Pennsylvania law regarding
water withdrawals and charged the DEP with operating an unauthorized
water withdrawal program that allows natural gas companies to take
water
that they have no legal right to for their Marcellus Shale gas
drilling
operations.

“The fact is, the DEP has absolutely no authority to permit water
withdrawals in Pennsylvania,” said Cathy Pedler, ADP’s forest watch
coordinator.  “Outside of the Delaware and Susquehanna River
watersheds,
water withdrawals are governed by riparian rights common law, which
means only those who live adjacent to the water can make reasonable
use
of the water on their land.  A gas company cannot take water that
flows
through property it does not own.”

Nevertheless, documents obtained by ADP reveal that the DEP is
unlawfully authorizing water withdrawals from western Pennsylvania
streams and rivers.  On March 31, 2010 the DEP approved a Water
Management Plan for Hanley & Bird, Inc.  The Water Management Plan
allows Hanley & Bird to withdraw 1.44 million gallons of water a day
from the Redbank Creek in Jefferson County for five years.

Under the Water Resources Planning Act of 2002, the DEP is required to
develop Water Management Plans for the entire state.  That law,
however,
does not provide any authority to the DEP to authorize water
withdrawals.

“The Water Resources Planning Act is just that, a planning act,” said
Bill Belitskus, ADP’s board president.  “That law provided no
substantive authority to the DEP to regulate or permit water
withdrawals
from Pennsylvania’s surface waters.  Each time the DEP approves a
water
management plan and tells a natural gas company that it can withdraw
surface water for their drilling procedures, it is acting without
authority and encouraging illegal conduct.”

ADP’s letter to DEP Secretary John Hanger is attached to this email.
Visit ADP’s website to see the documents we obtained from recent file
reviews at the DEP’s Northwest Regional Office:
http://alleghenydefenseproject.wikispaces.com/Marcellus+Shale
<http://alleghenydefenseproject.wikispaces.com/Marcellus+Shale>


Ryan Talbott
Executive Director
Allegheny Defense Project
117 West Wood Lane
Kane, PA  16735
http://www.alleghenydefense.org <http://www.alleghenydefense.org/>
rtalb…@alleghenydefense.org <mailto:rtalb…@alleghenydefense.org>

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Pipelines are next

There are so many different aspects of the gas and oil industry. At first we worried about the visual issues surrounding the gas drilling. Later we realized that our water and air qualities were at stake and that issue still takes a precedence today. As the production of natural gas progresses in this area we will see some new stages erupting this summer and with them new concerns. Things we have not yet considered because we are still investing all our time and energy into the water battle and some things that we will not know about until they start to happen. The nature of this industry seems to be in secrecy and quick movements, like a tiger, (isn’t that Exxon’s logo?) that make it difficult to see what’s coming head on, like a run away truck on a dark, rainy night.

One thing that has come up in the last months for me has been the pipeline infrastructure.  Did we know drilling for gas entailed pipelines? Sure we did, but I at least did not consider the full effect of this single aspect of natural gas drilling. Here are some links to informative sites and articles that are discussing this topic.

http://rnrext.cas.psu.edu/PDFs/FLWinter2009.pdf

The above link offers some good explanations of pipelines, how and what they are used for and what sort of effects they can have on PA forests.

The fifth story down this page gives some idea as to when this stage may begin and what we might see, at least for Potter County, PA.

http://today.pottercountypa.net/