July 16, 2009

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DRBC begins review of first natural gas application

Serena Scotto, left, of Equinunk, presents a petition signed by many northern
Wayne County residents, concerned about natural gas drilling

BETHLEHEM PA – The first proposed natural gas prospecting application to directly impact the domain of the Delaware River Basin Commission got a lengthy airing at a well-attended public hearing. 

Just one of many components of Chesapeake Appalachia’s project is being looked at, now: The drawing of up to one million gallons of water, a day, from the West Branch of the Delaware River. Most of that water would be used for ‘fracking’, the pumping of water, or a liquid compound, into a shale formation, to release entrapped natural gas. 

The actual land on which Chesapeake plans to prospect is on the Pennsylvania side of the West Branch of the Delaware, in the Wayne County township of Buckingham. 

There is concern on both sides of the river.  Upper Delaware Council Executive Director William Douglass, at the hearing as an observer, not a speaker, said issues involved span the Delaware.

“Eventually, whatever is being done in Pennsylvania is going to be happening in New York, also.  We’ll have New York State; we’ll have Pennsylvania; we’ll have the Delaware River Basin commission.

Among the issues common to both states would be the impact on the Flexible Flow agreements intended to maintain adequate seasonal flow, and water conditions for the high-quality fish population.  A few speakers raised that as a concern, including Traci Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper:

“That is linked to this and there is no way to separate it”, said Carluccio.  “That process is ongoing and there are several technical analyses and scientific studies that are part of that, that will inform that rulemaking.  They will also inform the needs of the streams that are controlled by the releases from the reservoirs.”

"'No' is the only answer", said
Independent filmmaker Josh Fox, who
directed "Water Under Attack" a
documentary about natural gas drilling.
He said what he found was "far worse"
than what he had been told when he
started contacting people in
potential gas areas.

Some sixty people signed up to speak at the hearing.  Most raised serious concerns about many aspects of the process.

“Stuff that superfund sites are made of”, said one speaker. 

“There will not be a do-over, if we make a mistake”, said another.

The drilling in general and Chesapeake in particular had defenders.  Pamela Brussell, a third-generation resident of the area, presented a letter from Wayne-Pike County Farm Bureau President Clinton Latourette. 

“Our organization wants the energy companies to operate, in our area, in a responsible manner, and most members are signing contracts that address the details of this.”

DRBC Special Projects Coordinator William Muszynski said Chesapeake must comply at all levels.

“The operation’s plan, as a minimum, would require that it demonstrate how it is going to reply with the withdrawal requirement.  For instance, we have daily and monthly withdrawal monitoring.  That’s Condition 1-K.

That’s one of many conditions, each requiring a separate review and permit.  The current application is for water withdrawal, only.

The DRBC is not ready to take action on the application. 


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