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>

SRBC’S REAL-TIME WATER QUALITY DATA AVAILABLE ONLINE

Water Managers and Public Can Track if Streams Are Impacted by Pollution

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) today announced that real-time data from six initial remote water quality monitoring stations are now available on SRBC’s web site at www.srbc.net/programs/remotenetwork.htm.  A user-friendly map, graphs and charts are key features for viewing and understanding the data.

SRBC is deploying water quality monitoring stations in regions where natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale is most active, as well as other locations where no drilling activities are planned so SRBC can collect control-data.

SRBC’s remote water quality monitoring network continuously measures and reports water quality conditions of smaller rivers and streams in northern tier Pennsylvania and southern tier New York to track existing water quality conditions and any changes in them on an ongoing, real-time basis.

“The Commission is committed to applying good science to monitor water quality conditions in the Susquehanna basin,” said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz.  “The use of advanced technology through these monitoring stations is making it possible for us to generate the data needed to determine whether or not water quality impacts are occurring from various activities, including natural gas drilling.”

Five of the initial monitoring stations are located in Pennsylvania on Meshoppen Creek near Kaiserville in Wyoming County, Sugar Creek near Troy and Tomjack Creek near Burlington in Bradford County, Hammond Creek near Millerton in Tioga County and Trout Run near Shawville in Clearfield County.  The sixth station is located on Choconut Creek near Vestal Center in Broome County, New York.

Each monitoring station is equipped with water quality sensors and a transmitter to continuously report water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity (water clarity), water depth and conductance (ability to conduct electricity).  Elevated levels of conductance in water can be a leading indicator of impacts from natural gas activities if they occur.

SRBC receives the data collected by the network then makes it available to other resource agencies and the public through its web site.  The monitoring network will provide early warnings to help environmental protection officials respond more rapidly and better pinpoint causes if water quality conditions change.  It will also help local public water suppliers, local watershed groups and communities stay informed.

SRBC will continue installing additional stations in Pennsylvania and New York and making data available on the web site.  Thirty (30) total stations are planned by summer 2010.  More stations will follow this fall as a result of additional funding commitments SRBC has received.

The Harrisburg-based SRBC (www.srbc.net) was established under an interstate compact signed on December 24, 1970 by the federal government and New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to manage the water resources of the 27,510-square-mile Susquehanna River Basin.  The Susquehanna River starts in Cooperstown, N.Y., and flows 444 miles to Havre de Grace, Md., where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Drilling without approval

On January 12, SRBC ordered Texas-based Novus Operating, LLC, a natural gas drilling company, to immediately cease all water-related activities at two drilling pad sites in the Marcellus shale formation in Brookfield Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  The company began drilling two wells without prior approval from SRBC.

To read more, click here: http://www.srbc.net/whatsnew/Newsletters/article_33.asp

Public Supports Rules for Drillers

By DAVID THOMPSON – dthompson@sungazette.com

POSTED: December 17, 2009

More than 100 people turned out Wednesday for a public hearing regarding a Department of Environmental Protection proposal to set more stringent treatment standards on wastewater primarily associated with the natural gas industry.

The hearing was hosted by the state Environmental Quality Board and moderated by Patrick Henderson, executive director of the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Of the approximately 20 people who testified at the hearing, held at the DEP’s Northcentral Regional Office in Williamsport, most were either in favor of the proposed standards or advocated even stricter or wider-reaching standards.

Two who testified said they believed current discharge standards are adequate.

The proposal would impose restrictions on the amount of total dissolved solids – or TDS – sulfate and chloride that can be discharged by a treatment plant into a waterway.

It also regulates levels of barium and strontium that can be discharged from wastewater specifically from the natural gas industry.

Deb Nardone of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited spoke in favor of the proposed standards, calling it “a necessary tool” for the DEP to use to protect the state’s fresh water resources.

Nardone suggested that more stringent regulations may be needed in the future, but in the meantime, the ones proposed should be “in place as soon as possible.”

Anne Harris Katz of Fairfield Township said she and her husband were drawn to the area almost 20 years ago but now questions whether the move was a good choice.

Katz said she fears the gas industry will change the region’s “pristine environment, small-town atmosphere and the confidence that residents’ health and safety are adequately protected from the short- and long-term hazards of gas drilling and extraction.”

“The proposed new standards will decrease the amount of pollution, and in this instance, less is better,” Katz said.

Her husband, Harvey M. Katz, said the gas industry should bear the cost of treating its wastewater, not the public.

He added that water polluted by gas industry wastewater will impact the area’s aquatic life.

Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action, which represents a consortium of environmental and watershed groups, spoke passionately about the impact gas industry wastewater could have on local waterways.

Sooy said the DEP proposal “will go a long way towards ensuring our drinking water supplies will not have unsafe levels of (TDS)” and urged the agency not to weaken the proposed discharge standards.

Sooy added that the rules should be put in place as soon as possible, that no drilling permits be issued until that happens and that discharge standards should be applied to other materials found in gas drilling wastewater.

City resident John Bogle said the gas industry will prove harmful to the state’s tourism industry, the Pennsylvania Wilds initiative, agriculture and property values.

Bogle suggested the industry could adversely impact the area in ways similar to the coal industry.

“A trip through the coal regions will show what pollution from an unregulated extractive industry can do to the economic future of a region.”

“The DEP’s proposed TDS strategy is a solid move in the right direction,” he said. “The DEP needs to stick to its guns.”

Jerry S. Walls, former director of the county planning department, said it is “vitally important for Pennsylvania to have effective policy standards for the discharge of total dissolved solids.”

According to Walls, clean water is as essential to a healthy environment and positive quality of life.

“Our groundwater, rivers and streams should not be viewed as easy, unlimited waste disposal systems,” he said.

Walls said he was involved in the planning, design and development of the Lycoming County landfill. The DEP has specific standards regarding the control of leachate from the landfill. However, frac water flowback impoundment lagoons at drilling sites “have no such standards” which ‘equals preferential regulatory treatment of the natural gas industry,” he said.

Walls lauded the industry’s efforts to recycle gas drilling wastewater, adding the proposed TDS standards would provide incentives to continue that practice.

John Tewksbury, a kindergarten teacher from Muncy, said he attended the meeting on behalf of his students who wanted him to speak in support of the regulations.

Tewksbury said the students were concerned with the impact pollution could have on rivers and streams.

F. Alan Sever, an engineer from Montoursville who worked for the DEP, said the Environmental Quality Board determined in 2001 that there “was no reason to assign statewide effluent limitations for total dissolved solids, chloride or sulfate.”

Sever said that except for isolated incidents on specific streams, the DEP has not shown that there is any reason to change that policy.

If the agency finds specific problem areas, it could assign “site specific” discharge limits at those sites, he said.

Sever also took issue with the cut-off date – April 1, 2009 – for when dischargers would fall under the new guidelines and those that would be gandfathered under the previous guidelines.

By grandfathering treatment facilities already causing problems and assigning stringent limits to those that did nothing to create a problem is unfair, he said.

He also cited an example of a discharge permit issued to a company several days prior to the cut-off day and suggested the permit was issued “in order to protect this company from having to meet these new limits.”

Ned Wheeler, president of Keystone Clear Water Solution Inc., said the oil and gas industry has been in Pennsylvania for 100 years and has a history of cooperation with regulatory agencies.

Wheeler said the proposed regulations are “unrealistic and unreasonable” and do not take into account regulations already in place.

According to the DEP, the expected results of the new rules would be to prevent the water quality issues that came to light in 2008 on the Monongahela River and ensure that the cost of treating gas industry-generated wastewater will not be borne by customers of drinking water systems.

In the fall of 2008, the river flow fell and concentrations of TDS, which mostly is salt, and sulfate in the river rose to historic highs.

According to the agency, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Moshannon Creek have a limited capacity for handling new loads of TDS and sulfate.

SRBC working with East Resources

http://srbc.net/whatsnew/Newsletters/article_32.asp

Here is a link to an update from the SRBC (on their website) about how they are working with East Resources to put in water monitoring stations. East resources has offered to pay for part of this system as well.

It is nice to see some of the gas companies and the various watershed organizations working together, finally! Now, if we could just get the state legislators on the same page….I was thoroughly disgusted when I received an updated mailing from Matt Baker the other day. He states that he could not support certain parts of the state budget because it included raising some taxes and that would bring a hardship to PA residents. I find it ironic that he also found it impossible to vote for a severance tax from the gas industries, which would be bringing in an amount of money that might have been equivalent to the amount that taxes were going to be raised. Over all I felt that his statements reflected only half of what went on in Harrisburg during the budget meetings; the half that makes him look good to people who are still ignorant or uneducated about the Marcellus Shale. His mailing also had no mention of the gas boom in PA and how it has effected our budget, amongst other things. Pretending something doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away.

You Are Cordially Invited to a Workshop…

Susquehanna River Basin Commission
a water management agency serving the Susquehanna River Watershed
You Are Cordially Invited to a Workshop
October 29, 2009 – Hold the Date

A Partnership for Water Quality Monitoring
To Encourage and Advance Real-Time Monitoring of Susquehanna Basin Streams
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has developed a proposal to implement
a network designed to remotely monitor water quality conditions to maintain and protect
smaller rivers and streams in select portions of the Susquehanna watershed. With the demand
for water from smaller rivers and streams on the increase – most notably from the natural gas
industry – it is important to routinely monitor water quality conditions to verify whether or not
water quality impacts are occurring. The proposed network would provide real-time data that
will keep management and conservation agencies informed and able to respond more rapidly if
pollution events occur. It will also help local public water suppliers, watershed groups, and
communities to stay informed about water quality conditions in local streams.
SRBC is sponsoring this workshop to encourage governmental and non-governmental interests
to join as partners in this effort. At the workshop, SRBC will explain the proposed network and
its known benefits, seek input and recommendations, and identify interested partners.
DATE: October 29, 2009
TIME: 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Workshop Sessions (lunch provided)
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Optional Tour of Natural Gas Drilling Site
LOCATION: Holiday Inn, 100 Pine Street, Williamsport, Pa.
Directions:
http://www.holidayinn.com/h/d/hi/1/en/hotel/IPTPP/transportation?start=1
RSVP: By: October 15, 2009

To: Ms. Ava Stoops, Administrative Specialist, SRBC
Phone: (717) 238-0423 ext 302 or Email: astoops@srbc.net
When responding, please provide your Name, Title, Affiliation,
Mailing Address, Phone, Fax, Email

A special thank you to the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
(http://www.pennsylvaniawatersheds.org/) for funding this workshop.

Pennsylvania Orders Cabot Oil and Gas to Stop Fracturing in Troubled County

http://www.truthout.org/092709W?n

It’s about time they made a  decision to put Cabot’s drilling on hold. I am quite disappointed in the DEP’s efforts to put a pause in drilling routines even after the first spill. If there was ever any question as to why or how the spill(s) happened it would also seem that a responsible reaction to that from the state would be to put further operations on hold. It took three spills, not to mention the polluted wells and sick people of Dimock, PA to get the DEP to finally penalize Cabot Oil & Gas in some fashion.