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Archive for the ‘Department of Environmental Protection’ Category


On June 17-19 Allegheny Defense Project will meet near the confluence of Salmon Creek and The Branch (a tributary of Salmon Creek) for our Spring Outing. Follow this link to a map of the camp location and/or see illustrations below. The easiest path to the site is from Route 666 crossing the bridge over Salmon Creek at Kelletville near Cougar Bobs. We will make camp Friday evening (June 17), starting at 5pm. The camp will be beside the Branch where the North Country Scenic Trail crosses FR 127 (AKA the Branch Ridge Road) and meets The Branch. Saturday morning we will discuss issues and strategy in a Forest Watch update. Saturday afternoon we will hike and backpack as far as we like on the North Country Trail and spend Saturday night on the trail. Please bring all of your own gear and food (including device to filter water). Our base camp Friday night (June 17) will be a primitive camp with no facilities. Saturday night (June 18) will be backpacking hiking and camping.

If you do not have gear but would like to join us for the base camp or backpack camp we may be able to outfit you with some items. Please contact us below if you need gear or have questions.

Please also feel free to join us for socializing and Forest Watch update Friday evening or Saturday morning even if you do not intend to camp.

Contact: Office: 814-454-7523 Cell: 814-520-4639 (We will be unable to communicate by phone after noon Thursday June 16).

Spring Outing (right click for larger image)

Spring Outing Location

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Download Related Documents Below

November 23 Press Release July 26 Press Release
November 15 Letter to John Hanger July 26 Letter to John Hanger
Response from DEP All Documents
Response from ANF File Review Documents

 

 

November 23, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department Of Environmental Protection Admits It Has No Authority To Permit Water Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling In Western Pennsylvania

Nonetheless, DEP continues to encourage illegal water withdrawals

On July 26, the Allegheny Defense Project sent a letter to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger challenging the agency’s statutory authority to permit water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling in western Pennsylvania. Marcellus Shale gas drilling requires millions of gallons of water for the High Volume Slick-water Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing process. In central and eastern Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions have authority to permit water withdrawals. There is no commission with such authority in western Pennsylvania, however, and the DEP lacks statutory authority under state law to issue water withdrawal permits.

In his response to the Allegheny Defense Project, Secretary Hanger acknowledges that the DEP’s approval of a “water management plan” (WMP) does not, in fact, constitute an actual authorization to withdraw water from streams, lakes, and rivers.  Secretary Hanger responded with the following disclaimer:

“DEP’s approval of [a Water Management Plan] does not give the operator any real or personal property rights, or the right to access water. For example, this approval does not grant or confer to the operator any right, title, easement, or interest in, to or over any land, including that of a riparian owner. Moreover, this approval does not obviate the necessity of the operator to obtain the proper consent from the riparian landowner and to comply with federal, state, and local legal requirements and common law regarding property rights. Rather, DEP’s WMP approval is intended to ensure that an operator’s use of water for natural gas well development does not violate Pennsylvania statutory law. For these reasons, DEP does not require an operator to notify riparian landowners or demonstrate that it has authority to make a water withdrawal.” (emphasis added)

Secretary Hanger’s claim that the WMP process is not viewed by the DEP as an authorization to withdraw water is contradicted by the DEP’s own documents. For example, on May 11, 2010, the DEP sent a letter to East Resources regarding the company’s proposal to add the Allegheny River as a new water withdrawal source to its existing WMP. DEP “approved” East Resources to withdraw 600,000 gallons of water per day from the Allegheny River.

“It is disingenuous for DEP to claim that its approval of a WMP for Marcellus Shale gas companies is not actually a permit to withdraw water,” said Bill Belitskus, Board President for the Allegheny Defense Project. “When the DEP sends letters to gas companies telling them they are ‘approved’ to withdraw specific amounts of water, it defies logic for the DEP to turn around and argue that it has not authorized a water withdrawal.”

Unable to cite legal authority to permit water withdrawals by Marcellus drillers from western Pennsylvania’s waterways, Secretary Hanger’s head-in-the-sand approach rises to intentional malfeasance when he states, “DEP does not require an operator to notify riparian landowners or demonstrate that it has authority to make a water withdrawal.” Instead, Secretary Hanger erroneously claims that its up to “the operator to obtain the proper consent from the riparian landowner” to withdraw water from western Pennsylvania waterways.

It must be noted that under Pennsylvania riparian law that, “a riparian owner has no property right in the water per se, but rather only a right to use the water on the riparian land. Accordingly, diversions for uses elsewhere are not protected by common law.”  In other words, riparian landowners cannot sell water nor access to water under riparian rights common law; so the DEP’s assertion about operators obtaining “proper consent from the riparian landowner” is absurd on its face.

“What is truly upsetting about Secretary Hanger’s response is that while he acknowledges on the one hand the DEP has no authority to permit water withdrawals, on the other hand he refuses to require proof that these companies have any legal authority to withdraw water in the first place,” said Cathy Pedler, Forest Watch Coordinator for the Allegheny Defense Project. The DEP should not issue any more drilling permits for any oil and gas drilling until companies can demonstrate that they have a legal right to withdraw water from Pennsylvania’s waterbodies.”

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[1] Craig M. Wilson, “Water Resources,” ch. in Pa. Environmental Law and Practice, Terry R. Bossert & Joel R. Burcat, eds. (5th Ed. 2008), PBI No. 5203, p. 189.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department of Environmental Protection Unlawfully Permitting Water Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in Western Pennsylvania
Only riparian owners can make use of water in streams and rivers

Natural gas companies have descended on Pennsylvania’s forests and farmlands to drill into the Marcellus Shale.  Each Marcellus Shale gas well requires millions of gallons of water for the drilling process.  That water is taken from Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers under the alleged authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The DEP, however, does not have the authority to permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania.

In central and eastern Pennsylvania, water withdrawals are managed by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin Commission.  Congress created the two commissions as federal-interstate compacts with the authority to permit water withdrawals within their respective basins.  The rest of Pennsylvania, most of which is in the Ohio River basin, is governed by riparian rights common law, which allows only the owner of property along a watercourse to withdraw water for use on their land.  There is no state law regulating water withdrawals other than for municipal drinking water supplies.

In a letter sent to DEP Secretary John Hanger, the Allegheny Defense Project (ADP) outlined the current state of Pennsylvania law regarding water withdrawals and charged the DEP with operating an unauthorized water withdrawal program that allows natural gas companies to take water that they have no legal right to for their Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations…Read More

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July 26, 2010

Via Electronic Mail and Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

John Hanger, Secretary
Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Dear Secretary Hanger:

Marcellus Shale gas drilling poses significant risks to Pennsylvania’s waterways, both in terms of water quality and quantity.  Drilling a Marcellus Shale gas well requires millions of gallons of water that drilling companies withdraw from our streams and rivers.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) website, in addition to several media reports and documents obtained through recent file reviews, the DEP is purportedly authorizing water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling under an allegedly comprehensive regulatory scheme that protects Pennsylvania’s waterways.  The fact is, however, that any purported “approval” or “authorization” or “permitting” by the DEP of a surface water withdrawal in western Pennsylvania would be clearly illegal, beyond the DEP’s statutory authority and in direct contravention of the rights of those who hold valid surface water rights under Pennsylvania law.  At best, the DEP’s recent conduct discussed below amounts to the DEP intentionally ignoring and facilitating illegal water withdrawals by numerous Marcellus shale drilling operations.  At worst, the DEP is, in direct violation of its authority under Pennsylvania law, purporting to authorize the withdrawal of water by entities that in fact also have no legal right to make such withdrawals under Pennsylvania law.

There are two major problems with the DEP’s actions with regard to “approvals” of water withdrawals by Marcellus shale drillers.  First, any notion that the DEP has a comprehensive regulatory scheme in place to keep a check on water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling is simply erroneous.  In fact, water resources law in Pennsylvania “is not guided by any comprehensive statutory or regulatory program.”1 Second, and most importantly, the DEP actually has no authority whatsoever to authorize or permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania. In other words, if the DEP “authorizes” or “permits” water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling, it is acting without authority and encouraging unlawful conduct…Read More

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