Marcellus Drilling: Is the PA Gas Rush Worth the Cost?
AUDUBON MAGAZINE TAKES A LOOK AT THE WILD WEST OF THE EAST
Pennsylvania, reeling from a budget crisis, exploits—at any and all costs—what might be the largest U.S. natural gas deposit. The results could be disastrous.
By Ted Williams
If the current orgy is allowed to continue and if it becomes a model for the other Marcellus states, vast swaths of the East’s best forests will be fragmented, groundwater and surface water polluted, and fish and wildlife wiped out on a scale that would dwarf the recent tragedy seen in the gas fields of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
House Panel Approves Funding to Study Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling in Delaware River Basin
For Immediate Release July 23, 2010
Contact: Mike Morosi – 202-225-6335 (Hinchey)
Zach Goldberg – 202-225-5801 (Holt)
Jonathon Dworkin – 610-892-8623 (Sestak)
Hinchey, Holt, Sestak Secure House Panel Approval of $1 Million to Study Cumulative Water Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling in Delaware River Basin
Washington, DC – Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) today announced that they have secured approval from a key House panel of $1 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct a cumulative impact study on water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale natural gas wells in the Delaware River Basin. The House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies this week approved the funding for the study, which would be conducted in partnership with the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
“The expected scope of hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin and the prodigious water withdrawals for this process raise important questions and concerns about the cumulative impacts of natural gas exploration and drilling in the Basin. It is estimated that more than 30,000 natural gas wells could be developed in the Upper Delaware River Basin in the coming years, and it is critical that we understand the impacts of these proposed activities upon the water resources of the Basin,” said Hinchey, who in April called on the DRBC to conduct a cumulative impact study. “With over 15 million people relying on the Delaware River for clean drinking water, we simply cannot allow drilling to move forward without first giving full scrutiny to the cumulative effects on water resources throughout the region.”
“Hydraulic fracturing poses a possible health and environmental threat to the millions of people who make their home in the Delaware River watershed and the almost 10 percent of the nation’s population who rely on these waters for drinking, recreational, and industrial use. We should not put these invaluable resources at risk. This funding would ensure that the Delaware River Basin Commission assess the cumulative impacts of oil and gas drilling before considering hydraulic fracturing proposals,” said Holt.
“There is extraordinary economic potential associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources,” said Sestak. “However, as the oil spill in the Gulf and the recent explosion in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania reminds us, there is also great risk. One way to ensure proper development is understand the potential impacts. That is why I supported the funding of the cumulative effects of drilling and operation of gas wells on the water supply in the Delaware River Basin. With information from the study, we can make educated decisions on how best to minimize the impacts of drilling, while enhancing the benefits.”
The study will evaluate the cumulative impacts on water supply and resources from additional water consumption for hydraulic fracturing, landscape alteration due to gas well pad development, and changes in water quality resulting from water discharges within the Basin.
Over 15 million people, including New York City and Philadelphia residents, depend on the water resources of the Delaware River Basin. While property owners and local businesses could benefit economically from drilling activities in the Basin, the study is necessary to ensure that these individuals as well as other stakeholders throughout the Basin are not adversely impacted by any Marcellus Shale natural gas development and that the region’s water resources are fully protected. The cumulative impact analysis will help to inform and guide DRBC management policies and practices that both enable economic progress and also ensure protection of public health and the environment. The DRBC has regulatory jurisdiction over all water withdrawals and discharges for Marcellus Shale drilling in the Delaware River Basin.
Hinchey continues to be a leading voice in federal efforts to protect drinking water and the environment from the risks of hydraulic fracturing. In April, Hinchey wrote to DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier to urge the agency to conduct a cumulative water impact study prior to permitting individual gas drilling projects in the Basin. In March, the EPA announced that it had initiated a study on the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing based on legislative language Hinchey authored. Last year, Hinchey, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), and several of his colleagues introduced the FRAC ACT — Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, which would close the loophole that exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act and require the oil and gas industry to disclose the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing processes. Holt and Sestak have co-sponsored the legislation.
Hinchey and Holt currently serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Delaware River Task Force, a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives from all four basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) that coordinate congressional efforts to promote the restoration and vitality of the Delaware River Basin and its communities.
Major Advances in Pennsylvania Water Quality Protection
Thanks to the hard work of dozens of organizations that are part of the PA Campaign for Clean Water, as well as other advocacy groups, independent water suppliers, and state legislators, a pair of important new regulations cleared a major hurdle when they were passed by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC).
The new regs, which fall under Chapters 95 and 102 of the Pennsylvania code, strengthen protections on water resources, drinking water, and watersheds. They still need to go through final House and Senate approval, but despite opposition from gas and construction interests, they are expected to pass.
Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets…
A just released report on The Campaign Contributions & Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania authored by Common Cause Pennsylvania provides an eye-opening look at the correlation between campaign contributions of the big players in the Marcellus Shale boom and its success in rapidly expanding operations in the state before the potential for environmental damage from drilling has been fully studied.
A modern-day Gold Rush in a state with “Wild West” campaign finance laws is a potentially dangerous combination. Without a severance tax, how will Pennsylvania pay to mitigate environmental damage, maintain and expand local infrastructure, and cover other costs that result from drilling? And without further study of the environmental consequences of hydraulic fracturing for the state’s water supply, and the possible risks to human health, how can we know how great this cost will be?
– Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets authors Alex Kaplan and James Browning
For More Information, Get the Report >>
For a personal look inside the gas drilling phenomena and its impacts on local communities, join filmmaker Josh Cox and view his Sundance FIlm Festival award-winning documentary GASLAND at upcoming screenings in our area:
Wednesday, June 2 at the County Theater in Doylestown, PA
Thursday June 3 at Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, NJ
Get up to Speed on the Rush for Natural Gas
On April 10, GASLAND, Winner of the Special Jury Prize for documentary at 2010 Sundance Film Festival will be screening at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street at 5:30 pm. Immediately afterwards, the filmmaker will join PA Gubernatorial candidate Joe Hoeffel for a discussion about the implications of drilling for gas in Marcellus shale at the Naked Chocolate Cafe, 31 South 18th Street.
GASLAND GASLAND follows filmmaker Josh Fox as he sets off on a 24-state journey to uncover the deep consequences of the United States’ natural gas drilling boom after he discovers that natural gas drilling is coming to his area—the Catskillls/Poconos region of Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. What he uncovers is truly shocking–water that can be lit on fire right out of the sink, chronically ill residents of drilling areas from disparate locations in the US all with the same mysterious symptoms, huge pools of toxic waste that kill cattle and vegetation well blowouts and huge gas explosions consistently covered up by state and federal regulatory agencies…