Posts Tagged ‘susquehanna river basin commission’

Penn State Extension publication addresses water withdrawals for Marcellus gas drilling

This updated publication addresses the rapidly changing topic of water withdrawals for Marcellus shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Penn State Cooperative Extension has released an updated version of a publication that addresses the rapidly changing topic of water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

Originally published in September 2009, “Water Withdrawals for Development of Marcellus Shale Gas in Pennsylvania” reflects the latest Marcellus-related regulatory changes enacted by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Water is a critical component in the process of extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation. Public policies for managing and protecting water resources are common concerns of Pennsylvania residents, according to a water-policy expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Development of the Marcellus Shale could have major economic and environmental effects for Pennsylvanians and residents of neighboring states,” said Charles Abdalla, professor of agricultural and environmental economics. “Individuals, businesses and communities will be affected well into the future as this energy resource is fully developed.

“Citizens need to become aware of their stake in water-resource issues and policies and effectively participate in public policy-making,” he said. “Public policies for water management and protection will be improved if the affected parties — which include almost everyone — are well-informed about likely impacts and take advantage of opportunities to participate in decisions.”

Seeking to engage residents, landowners, federal and state agency personnel, environmental organizations, economic development groups and others, the publication discusses the fast-evolving issues and public policies related to water resources and Marcellus Shale gas exploration.

While adequate supplies of water are one of several essential inputs needed to extract gas from the shale, wastewater is an output from the process that must be treated or disposed of properly.

“Through this publication, we hope to increase the public’s understanding of water use and management related to Marcellus Shale gas development and help people understand how and where they can offer input into public decisions about water use and wastewater treatment,” said Abdalla, the publication’s lead author.

“Now is the time for people to learn about and help shape public policies that will guide development of the Marcellus Shale,” he said. “These policies will play a large part in determining the economic well-being and quality of life for residents of the commonwealth for a long time — perhaps generations — to come.”

Funding for the updated publication comes from the Pennsylvania Water Center at Penn State. To obtain a free copy, contact the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Publication Distribution Center, The Pennsylvania State University, 112 Agricultural Administration Building, University Park, PA 16802-2602; telephone: 814-865-6713; fax: 814-863-5560; e-mail:

This publication also is available online at

The publication is the latest in a series initiated by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Cooperative Extension to address issues related to Marcellus Shale gas exploration and development. Other publications in the series, along with related webinars, presentations and events, can be viewed at

from Chuck Gill, Penn State Ag Sciences News

Originally Published at:

Water withdrawal site OK’d in Falls

Published: November 5, 2010

TUNKHANNOCK – A sand-and-gravel company in Falls Twp. secured local permission Thursday to withdraw water from Buttermilk Creek for gas well drilling.

The township zoning hearing board approved the variance for Geary Enterprises, which operates a quarry and processing plant along Buttermilk Road.

Owner William Geary Jr. told the board his company already has a permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for the withdrawal of up to 99,999 gallons a day, with a maximum of 68 gallons a minute. Mr. Geary said the water will be taken from the site for use in the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, at gas wells.

Mr. Geary said he has not contracted with any gas company yet. The withdrawal operation is speculative, he said, based on the imminent expansion of the gas industry into Wyoming County.

He stated that there would be no fracking chemicals or any other substances on the site, which would merely be used for withdrawal of fresh water.

Mr. Geary told the board he is still awaiting a minor modification of his existing mining permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow the withdrawal site. He said he has also applied for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for a minor encroachment on wetland adjacent to the creek.

The board granted the variance conditional on the receipt of those two permits.

Mr. Geary said studies of the creek dating back nearly 70 years have shown the average creek flow rate is about 3,000 gallons a minute, so the water taken out should have minimal effect.

In addition, Mr. Geary said the SRBC has tied its permit for the site to the flow rate of the Lackawaxen River in northern Wayne County. He said if that river’s rate falls below a certain level, the operation must shut down, and remain offline until the river is back over the minimum rate for at least 48 hours.

SRBC review docket No. 20100907 notes that the Lackawaxen gauge is used because “local stream monitoring may not be practicable.”

Mr. Geary said water will be drawn from the creek into storage tanks, then trucks will take water from the tanks to well sites. That will enable water to be pumped continuously, while having trucks coming in and out only during daylight hours.

He said there would be about 20 trucks a day accessing the site via Buttermilk Road and Route 92. Because his company already operates heavy trucks in the area, Mr. Geary said the extra traffic should have little to no additional effect on roads.

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Copyright: The Scranton Times

Encana to finish drilling at Luzerne gas test well

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: October 18, 2010

Encana to finish drilling at Luzerne gas test well

Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. is preparing to wrap up drilling operations soon at the company’s – and Luzerne County’s – second exploratory natural gas well.

According to an update from Encana, drilling is nearly complete at the Salansky site on Zosh Road in Lake Twp.

“We installed additional directional signs and turning points leading in and from this location to remind anyone working on behalf of Encana to follow the approved ingress and egress,” the company’s newsletter states.

The Lake Twp. well is Encana’s second. The first – not only for the company, but for Luzerne County – at the Buda property off Route 118 in Fairmount Twp., has already been drilled.

However, Encana has not scheduled completion, which includes hydraulic fracturing, for either well. Hydraulic fracturing involves blasting millions of gallons of water at high pressure deep underground to break up the shale rock and release the gas.

Due to the dry conditions over the summer, some natural gas companies, including Encana, had their sources of water put temporarily off-limits by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates large water withdrawals from all sources within the river’s watershed. Those withdrawal bans were lifted by the commission after the rainy weather recently experienced by the region.

Another of Encana’s projects is starting to take shape. The company is building what it calls the Alimar natural gas processing facility at 44 Hartman Road in Fairmount Twp. This facility will process the natural gas and get it into the nearby Transco pipeline to be sent to market. Encana reports that Alimar site preparation is complete and foundation con­- struction has started.

The company is also planning more wells. Encana has received permission for 10 new wells from Luzerne County, and has state approval for half of them so far.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is still reviewing Encana’s plans for five new wells on the 4-P Realty property on Loyalville Road in Lake Twp. DEP has already granted Encana permits for four horizontal wells and one vertical well in Fairmount Twp., on the property of William Kent.

So far the only DEP violation Encana has committed has been administrative; the company failed to file the required production reports on time – even though the wells are not yet producing any gas. The company has since remedied the oversight and is now in compliance.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Drilling at Buda site wrapping up

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: August 19, 2010

Drilling is close to wrapping up at Luzerne County’s first natural gas well, paving the way for Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. to start on the second.

In a recent release, Encana reported drilling operations at the Buda natural gas well site on Route 118 behind the Ricketts Glen Hotel in Fairmount Township are expected to be finished within the next two weeks. Construction of the drilling pad at the Salansky site on Zosh Road in Lake Township is also “nearing completion and preparation for active drilling operations will start soon,” the company stated.

However, Encana stated that the completion process, which includes hydraulic fracturing, has not yet been scheduled for either site.

The wells will take approximately 6 millions of gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates large water withdrawals, has granted Encana permits to take water from three sources shared with other natural gas drilling companies and three municipal sources.

The municipal sources are Dushore Water Authority in Sullivan County, Towanda Municipal Authority in Bradford County and Tunkhannock Borough Municipal Authority, Wyoming County.

Encana has SRBC permission to take up to 499,000 gallons per day from a Citrus Energy source at the North Branch Susquehanna River in Washington Township, Wyoming County; up to 999,000 gallons per day from the Mountain Energy Services Inc. source at Tunkhannock Creek in Tunkhannock Township; and up to 240,000 gallons per day from the Bowmans Creek withdrawal site of Randy Wiernusz in Eaton Township.

Withdrawals from the Citrus Energy site are currently on hold due to low stream levels, triggering what the commission calls “pass-by restrictions,” according to Susquehanna River Basin Commission Spokeswoman Susan Obleski.

Citrus Energy and Mountain Energy were also under the restrictions, but Obleski said those have been lifted.

“The other two are available, but I understand the stream flows are dropping quickly there again, so it could be only a matter of time that they’re put on hold again,” she said.

Encana also announced that in the event of a natural gas well emergency, the company is partnering with Cudd Well Control as a first responder.

Cudd, which is based in Houston, Texas, has opened a branch on Route 414 in Canton, Bradford County – the first well-control specialists to start operating in Pennsylvania. Previously, specialists from Texas had to be flown in to handle natural gas well emergencies.

“We’ve worked with Encana for a long time in Texas and look forward to partnering here in Pennsylvania,” Troy White, Cudd’s director of business development, said in a prepared statement. “Our specialized team is already familiar with Encana’s safety practices, so we expect a smooth transition to first response planning with Encana in the Marcellus.”, 570-821-2072

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Copyright:  Citizens Voice

Hess could be first to successfully tap Marcellus Shale in Wayne County

By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)
Published: August 16, 2010

Although a natural gas drilling ban is in effect for much of Wayne County, one company is lining up permits for what may become the county’s first producing wells – in a small area just a hop across the Delaware River watershed boundary.

Hess Corp. has natural gas development permits either pending or recently approved for at least six hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale wells along the county’s far northwestern border, according to state Department of Environmental Protection and Susquehanna River Basin Commission records.

Nearly all of the county lies within the Delaware River watershed, a vast 13,539-square-mile area that drains into the Delaware River. But this sliver in its far northern reaches is in the Susquehanna River watershed. There, the presiding Susquehanna River Basin Commission has granted hundreds of water-use permits to the burgeoning industry centered regionally in Susquehanna and Bradford counties.

Hess, which has leased at least 100,000 acres in northern Wayne County in a joint-development partnership with Newfield Exploration Co., had received regulatory approval from both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and DEP for three Marcellus Shale wells in the Susquehanna watershed as of Saturday, according to a record review.

The permits were issued in late June and July. The pending and approved wells are concentrated in an area that encompasses Scott and Preston townships and Starrucca. The company will be “drilling and hydraulically stimulating one or more horizontal natural gas wells,” according to each permit application.

“An accounting of how (the companies) are going to use the water” is made before the commission decides to issue a permit, Susquehanna commission spokeswoman Susan Obleski said.

Efforts to reach officials with the New York City-based Hess Corp. were unsuccessful.

Drilling in Wayne County’s portion of the Delaware River watershed is a different story.

The Delaware River Basin Commission recently enacted a moratorium on the drilling of producing natural gas wells, which may be in effect for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, Wayne County does not have a single producing well, nor has it seen any wells hydraulically fractured.

The only natural gas company that has attempted to hydraulically fracture a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Wayne County, Lafayette, La.-based Stone Energy Corp., was issued a stop-work order in the summer of 2008 for its partially completed well in Clinton Twp. because it lacked a permit from the Delaware River Basin commission.

The Delaware River commission, a federal-state environmental regulatory agency charged with protecting the environmental integrity of the watershed, has stringent jurisdiction over the watershed and over natural gas drilling operations there.

It has placed a blanket moratorium on natural gas drilling until it develops its own industry regulations which are expected to exceed some DEP enforced laws.

“(Delaware) River Basin Commission consideration of natural gas production projects will occur after new … regulations are adopted,” said spokesman Clarke Rupert.

Mr. Rupert said draft regulations are expected to be published by the end of the summer. They will be followed by a series of public meetings and comment periods prior to final approval by commission vote.

“I expect those draft regulations will include provisions relating to the accounting of water movement since we would want to know the source of water to be used to support natural gas development and extraction activities in the basin,” Mr. Rupert said.

Meanwhile, the Delaware River commission is allowing 10 natural gas exploratory wells to go forward in Wayne County. They will not be hydraulically fractured, produce gas, or require much water. Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. received approvals for these wells from DEP prior to the June 14 moratorium.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Drillers, residents keep eye on Harveys Lake

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: July 26, 2010

HARVEYS LAKE – The natural gas company planning two exploratory natural gas wells in Noxen is steering clear of nearby Harveys Lake.

“Carrizo has no intention of drilling under Harveys Lake or anywhere near Harveys Lake,” Carrizo Marcellus LLC spokesman Phillip Corey said. “Our first well, the closest point to the lake as the crow flies, is almost 3 miles away.”

The company leased more than 3,000 acres of Sterling Farms, property belonging to the Sordoni family. While most of the property is in Noxen Township, some is in Harveys Lake Borough, he said. However, the company does not have rights to drill under Harveys Lake and doesn’t want to, anyway, Corey said.

“You can’t just go out there to drop a hole wherever you please,” he said.

Harveys Lake resident Guy Giordano, who is vocal about keeping contaminants out of the lake, said it’s good news that Carrizo is not drilling in the borough – but it’s still a little too close for him.

“That still doesn’t give me a lot of comfort. Thirty miles, yeah, but 3 miles, I’m not so sure,” he said.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-treated water thousands of feet underground to break up the shale and release the natural gas.

The fact that some of these chemicals are not disclosed bothers Giordano.

“Why can’t they use something non-toxic?” he asked. “I can’t believe the government would let anyone put anything in the ground that’s secret.”

State law allows natural gas companies to drill up to 100 feet away from a water source. State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, wants to expand the buffer to 2,500 feet away from drinking water sources, as well as lakes and other bodies of water that are governed by boroughs or second-class townships. She also wants to prohibit drilling beneath them.

Boback has also signed on as a co-sponsor to state Rep. Phyllis Mundy’s bill calling for a one-year moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Corey said Carrizo will test the drinking water of residents around the drilling site, as required in the lease, which also calls for staying at least 500 feet away from any structure or water source.

He said Carrizo has not decided which direction, if at all, to drill horizontally. The company might just stick with a vertical well to see what’s there, he said.

“We’re going to play this very conservatively,” Corey said.

Giordano stressed that he does not oppose natural gas drilling.

“I’m glad these people got the money for these drilling leases, God bless ‘em. They deserve it,” he said. “But I wish they didn’t have to drill. If it’s rural, it’s OK, the risk is not that great. But when you’re talking about a densely populated area, it’s not worth it. I don’t see how they can take the risk.”

Ceasetown connection

Giordano pulled his minivan to the side of the road to get a better look at the Ceasetown Dam, slightly misty in the summer rain and surrounded by lush green foliage.

This is one of the main reasons he worries about Harveys Lake becoming contaminated.

“A few years ago I had a sample of lake water tested at the Kirby Health Center,” Giordano confessed. “It passed as drinking water.”

Harveys Lake is the source of Harveys Creek. Pennsylvania American Water Co. spokesman Terry Maenza said the company uses Harveys Creek as a backup water supply for the Ceasetown Reservoir. It isn’t used often but it’s there for emergencies, he said.

The Ceasetown Reservoir in Lehman Township serves about 70,000 people in all or parts of Ashley, Courtdale, Conyngham Township, Edwardsville, Hanover Township, Hunlock Township, Larksville, Nanticoke, Newport Township, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Pringle, Salem Township, Shickshinny, Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre Township.

“We have done some sampling from Harveys Creek to get some baseline data, so we have that information on file if and when any drilling does take place in the future,” Maenza said.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates large water withdrawals from sources within the river basin, has not issued permits for any natural gas companies to take water from anywhere in Luzerne County, including the Ceasetown or Huntsville reservoirs.

Besides permits from the commission, “There are other permits they would have to get through us before they could start taking our water,” Maenza said.

Last week, there were water tankers at the Huntsville Reservoir, but they were removing sludge, Maenza said. When the filters at the water treatment centers are backwashed, the sludge goes into a lagoon, he explained. About 95 percent of it is recycled, including for agricultural use, he said.

When it comes to natural gas drilling, Maenza said Pennsylvania American Water officials are being vigilant, talking to the state Department of Environmental Protection about permits, keeping in constant touch with legislators including Boback, Mundy, and state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township.

Maenza said the company has also been in contact with Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc., which started site preparations for a second exploratory natural gas well on Zosh Road in Lake Township on Wednesday, the same day Encana began drilling its first well in Fairmount Township.

“Nobody’s more concerned than us,” Maenza said. “This is our business. Water quality is what we rely on. We don’t want anything to put our water supply in jeopardy.” , 570-821-2072

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Copyright:  The Citizens Voice

Fell wants to withdraw 905,000 gallons of water from Lackawanna River for natural gas drilling-based business

Published: July 15, 2010

A company developing a railroad facility to serve the natural gas drilling industry is also seeking to withdraw 905,000 gallons of water a day from the Lackawanna River in Fell Twp. to support its operation.

Honesdale-based Linde Corp. began developing the Carbondale Yards Bulk Rail Terminal this year inside the Enterprise Drive business park to provide a transportation mode for materials and to mix fluids on-site that natural gas drilling companies use in the drilling process.

Susan Obleski, a spokeswoman with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates surface water withdrawals in the watershed, said the commission is reviewing Linde’s application to see if flow meters, which measure the amount of water in the river at all times, will need to be installed around the withdrawal point as a way to mitigate potential impact to aquatic life, especially during drought conditions.

Linde officials have said they intend to mix the drawn water with sand and a chemical concentration to create a “drilling mud.”

The river withdrawal point, which is located near Linde’s facility, is also upstream from a stretch of the Lackawanna River from Archbald to Olyphant designated as wild, “trophy” trout waters with stringent fishing regulations enacted by the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Larry Bundy, a law enforcement assistant regional supervisor for the state Fish and Boat Commission, which also regulates state waters and aquatic wildlife, said Wednesday that he “wasn’t aware” of Linde’s application. However, he said his agency relies on the river basin commission’s biologists and staff to make determinations on whether water withdrawals may impact trout or other aquatic life.

“I haven’t seen any problems,” he said of other commission-approved water withdrawals in his Northeast Pennsylvania jurisdiction.

As of Monday, the river basin commission had only approved only one water source withdrawal for natural gas-related development projects in Lackawanna County – 91,000 gallons a day from the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek in Benton Twp.

It has approved dozens of others throughout its 27,510-square miles jurisdiction, however, including 22 water withdrawal applications specifically for natural gas projects in Susquehanna County.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission could vote on Linde’s application at its September meeting.

Contact the writer: smcconnell

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times 

Would The Present-Day DRBC Have Let Washington Cross the Delaware?

NJ-based Delaware River Basin Commission places unnecessary moratorium on Marcellus production, denying economic benefits, jobs to Pennsylvanians

It’s hard to imagine President Kennedy had the denial of jobs and revenue for residents of Pennsylvania in mind when he signed a bill in 1961 creating the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). But nearly a half-century later, the DRBC of today bears little resemblance to the compact established almost five decades ago — one that was put in place to promote economic growth by providing a mechanism for equitable distribution of the Delaware’s waters.

Today, unlike similarly structured, intergovernmental bodies – such as the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) – the DRBC is working aggressively to shut down any and all natural gas exploration that may take place, now or in the future, in the eastern portion of the Marcellus Shale.

This week, following the decision last month to ban new shale permits in the area, the West Trenton, N.J.-based organization took additional steps to bring responsible Marcellus Shale natural gas production to a standstill by putting forth a de facto moratorium. How’d it do that? Easy: DRBC simply gave itself the authority to unilaterally freeze exploratory Marcellus production wells in the basin altogether.

Well aware of exactly what’s at stake, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) wasn’t bashful in telling the Philadelphia Inquirer what it thought of the DRBC decision:

Kathryn Klaber, executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition…said extending the temporary ban on new permits to include exploratory wells only added “layers of unnecessary red tape” without any environmental benefit.

“The DRBC’s decision to deny Americans the benefits of clean-burning, job-creating natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is misguided and unfortunate,” she said. New technologies, she added, are reducing the overall water usage and land disturbance.

“At the same time, this production is creating tens of thousands of jobs and delivering affordable, clean-burning energy to struggling families and small businesses. Our hope is that the DRBC will recognize this fact and act accordingly, putting commonsense solutions and policies ahead of agendas,” she said.

Safely producing clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania remainsa powerful job creation engine. In fact, according to a recently updated Penn State University economic impact study, this tightly regulated production is projected to create nearly 212,000 jobs over the next decade.

Many in Pennsylvania understand how important this opportunity is for the Commonwealth, especially in regions of the state facing high unemployment and ongoing economic struggles. And like the MSC, supporters of environmentally safe natural gas production understand how critical it is to get this right, balancing commonsense environmental safeguards with the economic opportunities before us.

Here’s what one northeastern Pennsylvania natural gas advocate told the Associated Pressabout safely developing these abundant, domestic and clean-burning resources near the Delaware River basin:

Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania’s unspoiled northeastern tip, hoping to tap vast stores of gas in a sprawling rock formation — the Marcellus Shale — that some experts believe could become the nation’s most productive gas field.

Plenty of folks like Matoushek are eager for the gas, and the royalty checks, to start flowing — including farmers who see Marcellus money as a way to keep their struggling operations afloat.

“It’s a depressed area,” Matoushek said. “This is going to mean new jobs, real jobs, not government jobs.”

Adding new and unnecessary layers of burdensome regulations and red tape – aimed at halting job-creating Marcellus Shale natural gas production – will not help deliver more affordable supplies of homegrown energy. The DRBC’s shale gas moratorium will not help drive down our dependence on unstable regions of the world to keep our economy fueled, nor will it help create jobs at a time when they’re most needed. Quite the opposite, in fact.


Carbondale agency advances plans for natural gas rail depot

By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)
Published: June 2, 2010

CARBONDALE – Plans to develop an extensive railroad facility to serve the natural gas industry in Fell Twp. moved forward Tuesday.

The Carbondale Industrial Development Authority unanimously approved a motion to allow Honesdale-based Linde Corp. to purchase a nearly two-acre parcel in the Enterprise Drive business park. The company intends to use it for unloading materials from railcars for shipment via truck. It also would include storage facilities and on-site processing of drilling fluids.

The company is currently developing an adjacent property, purchased from the local railroad authority, that is part of its overall plan to have a suitable staging area for on-site processing of drilling fluids and a railroad facility capable of serving the industry, said company Vice President Christopher A. Langel.

Authority Chairman Bob Farber said there has been ambiguity as to what exactly Linde Corp. intends to develop on the new property since the company has been meeting with the board about it.

“You’ve never given us site plans,” Mr. Farber said.

Mr. Langel said the company has submitted plans and has been meeting with the board since at least October about the project.

Among plans discussed Tuesday, existing railroad tracks, which run through the heart of the city, will be extended to enable off-loading of materials at the site.

The company, which has invested more than $500,000 in the so-called Carbondale Yards Bulk Rail Terminal, is also partnering with Houston-based Baker Hughes to mix sand, water and chemicals into a concentration needed for prospective natural gas drilling sites in the area.

Mr. Langel described it as a nontoxic mixture.

The company also is eyeing the former Wells Cargo building, a large-scale facility inside the business park, as an additional storage and distribution point related to the overall operation, Mr. Langel said.

The authority board tabled a motion that would give Linde Corp. permission to purchase and develop the Wells Cargo property.

In addition, the company is in negotiations with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw water from the Lackawanna River for potential use by the natural gas industry. The industry needs an abundance of water to help bust open underground rock formations to release natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing.

City administrators have said they support the project for its job-creation potential. It is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times-Tribune

Extra protection in place for water amid drilling

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has a set of rules for gas companies.


The Department of Environmental Protection isn’t the only state agency intent on protecting water sources from natural gas drilling activities that could affect area residents.

Tom Beauduy, deputy director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, said the commission requires drilling companies to account for “every gallon of water” withdrawn from any water source within the basin – where it comes from, where it’s used and what happens to it after it’s used.

And, a $1 million water quality monitoring system is being put in place near drilling sites within the basin, Beauduy said.

Beauduy said Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania hit the commission “like a tsunami,” just like it did every other impacted agency in the state.

The natural gas industry uses 4 million to 6 million gallons of water per natural gas well to release gas from the shale in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Currently, the industry is using about 1 million gallons per day in the state, and Beauduy expects that amount to increase to 28 million a day.

The commission, which is responsible for water resources planning, management, conservation, development, use and allocation, responded quickly to the industry’s needs. Protocols were adjusted so the commission could deal with the surge of water allocation requests, but no corners are cut when granting water withdrawal approvals, Beauduy said.

All companies known to be drilling in the Marcellus Shale region, which underlies more than 72 percent of the Susquehanna River Basin, were notified of the commission’s regulatory requirements. And the commission activated a previously unused rule that authorized an administrative “approval by rule” process for water withdrawals solely from public water supplies.

To date, Beauduy said the commission has approved 111 surface water withdrawals, with 55 applications pending; and 22 approvals of public water supply withdrawals, with 14 pending. It has also issued 662 approvals by rule for individual well pad sites and has 181 pending.

While the amount of water the gas industry needs might seem massive, Beauduy pointed out that the golf and ski resort industry in Pennsylvania consumes an average of 56 million gallons per day. He said industry needs can be accommodated if regulated properly. The industry must abide by restrictions that prevent negative impacts on streams and rivers that could harm aquatic life and water quality.

And while DEP regulates how the industry must dispose of flowback water from fracking operations, the commission will track area rivers and streams to catch a contamination problem.

The commission will have 30 water quality monitoring stations set up by the end of June in the regions where drilling in the Marcellus Shale is most active, as well as other locations where no drilling activities are planned so the commission can collect control data. The monitoring network will provide constant data collection with instruments sensitive enough to detect subtle changes in water quality on a frequency that will allow background conditions and any changes to them to be documented throughout the year.

Each monitoring station will be equipped with water quality sensors and a transmitter to continuously monitor and report water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, ability to conduct electricity (conductance) and water clarity. The water depth also will be recorded to establish a relationship with stream flows.

The monitoring of conductance is key to detecting impacts associated with natural gas activities if they occur because water produced by the natural gas industry is generally 200 times more conductive of electricity than water normally measured in streams in the basin.

The monitoring network, the data from which will be accessible online by the public, will provide early warnings to help DEP 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.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader