HARRISBURG — Demonstrators disrupted another meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission today to protest the approval of more water use by Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling companies.
The five Susquehanna River Basin Commission members approved 50 applications over the demonstrators' chants of "We pledge to protect the Susquehanna." The commission has representatives from the federal government as well as from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
Commission executive director Paul Swartz said the agency is being careful about the timing and location of the water withdrawals to protect smaller waterways from going dry or getting too low. He said it encourages the withdrawals from larger bodies of water.
Swartz also said the industry is not a threat to water quantity in the river basin and at full bore would be the fourth-largest water user in the basin behind public water systems, power plants and recreational use such as golf courses and snow-making. Drilling companies use about 11 million gallons daily now, about one-third of their projected use when the industry is fully engaged in the basin, and Swartz said.
But the demonstrators said the water withdrawals allow a dangerous and polluting industry to continue expanding. Demonstrators also disrupted a meeting in Wilkes-Barre in December.
The neighboring Delaware River Basin Commission has in place an effective moratorium on drilling while it considers rules for it. The demonstrators questioned why the Susquehanna River Basin Commission can't follow suit.
"People in both basins are adamantly opposed to fracking. It's just that one commission hasn't abdicated its duty," said Charlie Kratovil of Food & Water Watch.