On average, four million gallons of water are used to fracture a single shale gas well – enough water to supply a community of 40,000 people for a day.

GAS DRILLING in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formations, and more recently, Utica formations, appears here to stay, so public water systems need to stay on top of related issues to ensure the integrity of water supplies.
From surface water withdrawals, potentially toxic runoff from wellpads, stormwater runoff from new roadways; the loss of thousands of acres of purifying forest land, the introduction of new potential contaminants, to the possibility of spillage from frack-fluid recovery ponds overflowing during a storm event, the POTENTIAL HAZARDS can’t be ignored and must be considered in every Source Water Protection Plan in the Marcellus/Utica area.

A Big Change in the Legal Landscape

A recent development was the December 2013 PA Supreme Court ruling that declared the zoning provisions of Act 13 Oil and Gas Act unconstitutional. This means the ruling restored zoning powers regarding drilling to Pennsylvania’s local municipalities.  It also stated that municipalities must zone for drilling in a way that complies with Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, often referred to as the Environmental Rights Amendment.

Article 1, Sec. 27 reads: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

The ruling by the PA Supreme Court ruling struck down the requirement that local governments must allow drillers to allow gas wells virtually anywhere, including residential zones.  The decision was widely heralded for giving legal weight to what had been an obscure section of PA’s constitution, known mostly to environmentalists and drilling opponents.  Local governments once again, have the power and legal authority to make energy development siting decisions, if they choose to use those powers.

Here are some resources to help you come up to speed and stay up to date:

Management Considerations for Oil and Gas Extraction Activities  In Your Source Water Protection Zones – Oil and Gas Recommendations for PWS


WEBINAR:  Original Presentation Date: 1/4/13: “EPA Study of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources: An Update for Federal, State, Local and Tribal Representatives” Sponsored by EPA Office of Research and Development

Governor’s Marcellus Shale Commission Meeting page: GO>>

PA DEP Marcellus page. GO >>

PA DEP Oil & Gas regulations GO>>

PA DEP Reporting on Oil and Gas:

PA DEP’s Oil and Gas Electronic Reporting website — a first-of-its-kind tool to provide the public with greater insight into oil and gas operations across the state. Developed in response to Act 15 , signed into law in March 2010— the reporting system was designed to make the activities of drilling companies and their business partners more transparent.

The site allows users to view historical oil and gas well production information from conventional shallow wells and newer Unconventional wells, as well as data on the waste each operation produces. All information presented is as reported by the industry in accordance with Pennsylvania law. Users can search for information by well permit number, by operator ID, by county or for the entire state. The site also allows users to generate and download raw data easily for further analysis.

FracFocus, the hydraulic fracturing chemical registry website. This website is a joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Downstream Strategies Report – Oct 2013; 78 pgs. “Water Resource Reporting and Water Footprint from Marcellus Shale Development in West Virginia and Pennsylvania Looks at “databases to document water withdrawals, fluid injections, and waste recovery and disposal, including the transport of waste to neighboring states. We also apply the concept of life cycle analysis to calculate the water footprint of the extraction phase of natural gas from Marcellus Shale.”

The Natural Gas Resource Center website helps connect area residents and businesses with information about the gas industry, and to connect the gas industry to businesses and organizations in Cameron, McKean, and Potter Counties.

Pipelines and Gas Infrastructure

Knowing and Protecting Your Rights When an Interstate Gas Pipeline Comes to Your Community: A Legal and Practical Guide for States, Local Government Units, Non-Governmental Organizations and Landowners On How the FERC Certification Process Works and How Your Can Participate

A helpful guide Prepared by Carolyn Elefant, Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant, Washington D.C. ; www.carolynelefant.com

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette PIPELINES Website:  GO>>
Oil and Gas Extraction and Source Water Protection - Tech Brief by National Environmental Services Center:  GO>>
Citizen’s Guide to Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania - 24 pg PDF GO>>

Prepared by the National Sea Grant Law Center and Pennsylvania Sea Grant (Fall 2010), the guide provides a brief overview of potential impacts, the regulatory process in Pennsylvania, how residents may participate in the process, and where to go for more information.

The Marcellus Shale: Resources for Stakeholders in the Upper Delaware Watershed Region - 101 pg PDF GO>>

Prepared by Pinchot Institute for Conservation. Pinchot Institute is working with regional stakeholders through the Common Waters Partnership to facilitate a dialogue about proposed gas development within the Upper Delaware watershed, and how to best minimize the potential for impacts on water quality. Includes helpful best management practices to protect water supplies for any areas undergoing natural gas development.

April 1, 2011  Workshop – Assessing the Environmental Effects of Marcellus Shale Gas Development: The State of Science View Agenda

Held at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA , and funded with major support by the William Penn Foundation, and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station,  the Pinchot Institute for Conservation convened a regional workshop assessing the environmental effects of Marcellus Shale gas development.  GO>>

National Geographic Special Report, October, 2010: THE GREAT SHALE GAS RUSH. GO >>

Basin Commissions’ Natural Gas Websites:

Delaware River Basin Commission - Natural  Gas Drilling in the Delaware River Basin page GO>>

Susquehanna River Basin Commission  – Natural Gas Shales and Natural Gas Development page GO>>

PA Water Supplier Comments on Natural Gas:

PA American Position on Marcellus Shale GO>>

Philadelphia Water Department Marcellus Shale Position Paper  Feb 2011 GO>>

Penn  State Cooperative Extension Natural Gas page. GO >>

March 2012 Report: The Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling on Rural Drinking Water Supplies – 28 pgs. by Center for Rural Pennsylvania  GO>>

EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Page:  GO>>

FRACTRACKER:  Tracking the Impacts of the Natural Gas Industry    GO>>

FracTracker is a combination of a web-based DataTool for tracking & mapping
data related to gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region and a blog.


State Impact Pennsylvania – a collaboration between WITF, WHYY and NPR. Covers the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s  energy economy, with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling.

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