First They Polluted the Susquehanna River, Then They Came for the Monongahela


Susquehanna Named Most Endangered River in the Nation” (via American Rivers):

American Rivers, which every year names the 10 most endangered rivers in the country, put the Susquehanna at the top of this year’s list, citing the rush to develop the enormous natural gas reserves in the region without considering the risk to clean water, rivers and human health. The most endangered river of 2010 was the Upper Delaware, which is similarly threatened by natural gas extraction.

The Susquehanna, one of the longest rivers in the nation, flows over the Marcellus Shale region, a rock formation underlying large swaths of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and containing vast reserves of natural gas.  As part of the fracking process used to extract natural gas, massive amounts of water are withdrawn from rivers and streams, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals and pumped underground to fracture the shale under extreme pressure.  There are currently limited facilities for treating the highly toxic wastewater that results from the extraction process and few government regulations to prevent it from seeping into rivers like the Susquehanna, which provides drinking water for more than six million people.

“Natural gas drilling poses one of the greatest risks our nation’s rivers have faced in decades,” says Andrew Fahlund, senior vice president for conservation at American Rivers.  “Without strong regulations, public health and drinking water will be threatened by the toxic, cancer-causing pollution that results from hydraulic fracturing.”

“The Susquehanna is one of the most ancient rivers on Earth. In its current state, it is a far cry from the pristine and primeval watershed that existed only a few centuries ago. The threat posed by the natural gas industry and horizontal hydrofracturing will eclipse the environmental legacy of the lumber and coal-mining industries combined, and as a long-time advocate for the protection of the Susquehanna, I believe we must call for an immediate moratorium on all water withdrawals and all natural gas drilling until the technology and legislation catches up with the desire and need to exploit these fossil-fuel resources,” said Don Williams, Susquehanna River Sentinel.

“Recent problems caused by poorly-regulated gas drilling in Pennsylvania include: ground water pollution in Susquehanna County resulting in loss of a community’s drinking water, a blowout in Bradford County that went uncontrolled, allowing toxic fracking chemicals to flow into the Susquehanna, deadly accidents at a gas well site as well as chemical spills, explosions and fires.  We call on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to immediately impose a moratorium on any new drilling in the Susquehanna River Basin, as was done by the Delaware River Basin Commission,” said Jeff Schmidt, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter.  “Until Pennsylvania, the SRBC and the federal government adopt new laws and regulations to fully protect public health and the environment from the dangers of Marcellus Shale gas drilling, no new drilling should be allowed,” Schmidt continued.

The next river in the crosshairs: the Monongahela, and the city of Morgantown:

A natural gas drilling company is challenging the constitutionality of a West Virginia town’s recent ban on natural gas drilling that involves hydraulic fracturing within a mile outside city limits. On June 21, the Morgantown City Council voted 6-1 to ban drilling at a site along the Monongahela River. Shortly thereafter, Northeast Natural Energy (NNE) filed a lawsuit against the city of Morgantown in Monongalia County Circuit Court requesting a temporary injunction to prevent the city’s ordinance from becoming effective, reported the Associated Press. A judge denied the order without ruling on the plaintiff’s larger arguments.

Hydraulic fracturing has been an issue in Morgantown since residents expressed concerns over the likelihood of contaminated drinking water caused by drilling accidents. In early May, it was revealed that NNE of Charleston received a permit to drill two natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale which is upriver from the area’s drinking water….

Enrout Properties LLC also joined the lawsuit. The company owns the surface and mineral rights to an industrial park site, says the Associated Press, just outside the city where NNE is sinking wells.

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