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Marcellus Drilling Halted by Heat Wave Drought Conditions

Unrelenting record high heat waves have been causing drought-like conditions for much of the mid-Atlantic region, impacting several Marcellus Shale drilling sites. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), an agency with a mission to manage water resources within the basin, suspended 64 water withdrawal permits, most of which were given to shale gas drillers.

The Susquehanna River, the nation’s largest river lying entirely in the U.S. that flows into the Atlantic Ocean, extends 444 miles throughout parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Among the drilling companies suspended from water withdrawal were Chesapeake, Appalachia LLC, Talisman Energy, Chevron Appalachia, Cabot Oil & Gas and several others. The Basin Commission says the water withdrawal suspensions are close to all time state records, but with river levels dangerously low, it is a necessary suspension. Companies might have to travel further away from drilling sites to retrieve the necessary water.

Fracking operations rely heavily on large water use, as millions of gallons are used to frack wells. According to “Explore Shale,” a Penn State media outreach group, each drill site can use anywhere from three to five million gallons of water per well. Pennsylvania alone uses about eight to ten million gallons of water each day for Marcellus Shale drilling. With the drought-like conditions drying up waterways, some companies are beginning to tap into their own reservoirs.

Regulation of water withdrawals is carried out by the state through the network of Basin Commissions. These commissions issue permits and monitor water usage very closely, especially during heat waves like the country is going through. According to SRBC Executive Director, Paul Swartz, “The Commission manages the amount of water that is consumed during low flows, something that no other agency in the basin addresses.” Swartz also says that all of these checks are in place to protect the environment, as well as promote economic development for businesses and industries that depend on water.

 

 
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