Pennsylvania Halts Drilling to Protect Streams

The Department of Environmental Protection on May 30 ordered two natural gas drilling companies to suspend a portion of their operations at separate sites in Lycoming County for violating Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law.

Range Resources - Appalachia LLC and Chief Oil and Gas LLC operate impoundment areas in Cogan House Township and Mifflin Township, respectively, that collect water for use in the companies' exploratory drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale.

The impoundments draw tens of thousands of gallons of water per day from nearby waterways. Such large volume diversions could impair the existing uses of the waterways.

The Clean Streams Law empowers DEP to protect the quality of Pennsylvania's waterways and the volume of water therein.

"Drilling for natural gas is a water-intensive endeavor," said DEP Northcentral Regional Office Director Robert Yowell. "That's even more so in the case of the Marcellus Shale, where this type of drilling can oftentimes consume millions of gallons of water. In the course of their operations, neither Range Resources nor Chief Oil and Gas have taken the necessary precautions to protect nearby streams from pollution or impairment during the drilling process.

"We need to ensure that bodies of water involved near Hoagland Run and First Fork Larry's Creek—both high quality tributaries—and Mud Run and Big Sandy Run are protected for the residents of Lycoming County and the entire Susquehanna watershed."

DEP's action coincides with an enforcement action taken by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission under its own regulatory authority.

Range Resources and Chief Oil and Gas failed to obtain the required approval for the ongoing water withdrawal. Permits are required for this type of activity because of the potential to impair or destroy the basin's water resources and cause pollution.

"These orders will remain in effect until the department has received and approved a water management plan from both companies, and each firm has obtained the necessary permits," said Yowell.

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