Natural Gas NOW
A new Pennsylvania DCNR shale gas report re-ups conclusions from four years ago and blows a ship-sinking hole through the DRBC fracking ban justification hull.
Good news is hard to hide, even for Wolf Administration folks committed to supporting the governor’s DRBC fracking ban. A new DCNR shale gas report uses 202 pages to lay out how shale gas development on state lands has been managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. They have to love it because oil and gas leases have provided over $1.1 billion to the Commonwealth and funded many of the land acquisitions they’ve made. But, bragging about it in an administration committed to the DRBC fracking ban requires some real parsing of words, of course. That’s why the good news—the only news that matters—does not appear until page 6, but it’s a huge torpedo through the hull of the DRBC fracking ship.
Here’s the DRBC shale gas report with the relevant portions highlighted and here are the key excerpts (emphasis added):
- Water chemistry analysis from continuous water monitoring and the widespread monitoring efforts do not suggest that at the monitored sites, shale gas development has impacted water quality.
- Over 85 percent of streams in the core gas forest districts are classified as Exceptional Value (EV) or High Quality (HQ).
- Surface water grab samples collected at all 42 macroinvertebrate sites are summarized in Table 5.14. All specific conductance values were found significantly under the bureau’s level of concern of 800 μs/cm. Barium, strontium, and bromide levels were all found well below their levels of concern of 2,000 μg/L, 4,000 μg/L, and 0.5 mg/L, respectively. TDS levels fall well under the 500 mg/L level of concern except for one reading of 920 mg/L found on Pine Island Run, Tioga County. Only one well, which is located on private lands, exists in this basin. A follow-up was completed by DEP Oil & Gas personnel who determined that oil and gas activity associated with this well pad could be ruled out as a reason for this high reading of TDS. The bureau and DEP will continue to monitor this site on Pine Island Run.
- Surface water grab samples collected at the eleven screening sites are summarized in Table 5.15. All specific conductance values were found to be less than the level of concern of 800 μS/cm. Most were found well below this level except for one outlier of 673 μS/ cm recorded at Basswood Run, Tioga County. This is a stream with historical acid mine drainage (AMD) influence. TDS levels fall well under the 500 mg/L level of concern and the highest reading of 378 mg/L was observed at Basswood Run. Barium, Strontium, and Bromide levels were all found below their levels of concern of 2,000 μg/L, 4,000 μg/L, and 0.5 mg/L, respectively.
There’s a lot more in the report (see Energy In Depth story here, for example) but the key point for me is that this exposes the DRBC fracking ban, yet again, as an infantile work of art rather than science. While the DRBC talks about its “Special Protection Waters” and the threats to them from fracking, that fracking is taking place elsewhere in exactly the same or even higher-quality such watersheds (Exceptional Value and High Quality classifications) with no impact on water quality. Indeed, the cover letter of the DCNR shale gas report includes this statement:
Water quality monitoring efforts by the bureau and its partners have not raised significant concerns on state forest headwater streams to date.
This is after 2,000 wells, more than likely would ever be drilled in the Upper Delaware River basin. End of story. The DRBC fracking doesn’t stand a chance in the courts and they know it.