The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

March 17, 2013

State pushes drillers to frack with coal mine water

HARRISBURG — Each day, 300 million gallons of polluted mine water enters Pennsylvania streams and rivers, turning many of them into dead zones unable to support aquatic life. At the same time, drilling companies use up to 5 million gallons of fresh water for every natural-gas well they frack.

State environmental officials and coal region lawmakers are hoping that the state’s newest extractive industry can help clean up a giant mess left by the last one. They are encouraging drillers to use tainted coal mine water to hydraulically fracture gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation, with the twin goals of diverting pollution from streams and rivers that now run orange with mine drainage and reducing the drillers’ reliance on fresh sources of water.

Drainage from abandoned mines is one of the state’s worst environmental headaches, impairing 5,500 miles of waterways.

“It’s a problem (the drillers) didn’t create, but hopefully a problem they can help solve,” said Sen. Richard Kasunic, a southwestern Pennsylvania Democrat who’s co-sponsoring legislation to spur the use of mine water in fracking.

While not all mine water is chemically suitable for fracking — and a mine discharge has to be close enough to a well pad to make transport via truck or pipeline economical — experts believe Pennsylvania has more than enough polluted mine water to meet the needs of the drilling industry.

More than 10 drillers have already received Department of Environmental Protection permission to use mine discharges for fracking, a technique in which millions of gallons of water, along with chemical additives and sand, are pumped down a well to break apart gas-bearing shale deposits.

“There’s a lot of potential here,” said Doug Kepler, vice president of environmental engineering at Seneca Resources Corp. “People are looking for the right place to do it, the right commitment to do it, and it has to make sense for your operation.”

Seneca has been withdrawing polluted water from the Arnot No. 5 coal mine in Tioga County since late 2010 and piping it some 6 miles to the well pad. DEP considers the mine, which discharges water at an average rate of 2,000 gallons a minute, one of the top contributors of pollution to the upper Tioga River watershed. Seneca’s permit allows it to take up to 500,000 gallons per day from the Arnot discharge.

“We’re not doing this to save money, and it’s not really costing us any more money,” said Kepler, a former environmental consultant. “It’s just an alternative that we choose to do to try to minimize our impact.”

The idea enjoys broad bipartisan support in Harrisburg. A bill that would encourage drillers to frack their wells with polluted water from abandoned mines cleared the state Senate by a unanimous vote last year, but passage came late in the legislative session, and the measure died in the House.

Kasunic’s revised bill had been making its way through the Senate when it was tabled abruptly last week after environmental groups complained it would give drillers too much protection from liability.

The legislation would remove what had been seen as a barrier for drillers wanting to use coal mine water: the state’s Clean Streams Law. The law’s strict liability provisions could be interpreted as requiring drillers to treat a mine discharge in perpetuity once they begin withdrawing water from it, even though they had no role in creating it. The Senate bill would shield gas companies from that liability.

But PennEnvironment and other environmental activists claimed the bill also would give drillers immunity from responsibility for spills and other accidents at a well pad, too.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration supports the bill and contends it was fine as written.

It “does not provide blanket immunity for the act of hydraulic fracturing, and any assertion to the contrary would be false,” John Stefanko, deputy DEP secretary, wrote to Kasunic and another of the legislation’s co-sponsors, Republican Sen. Gene Yaw.

He said it does not “provide any protection to the transporter or user of the treated water when it is used for fracking or other well development purposes.”

Lawmakers say they’re willing to make adjustments and are hopeful it will win passage.

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Union County bridge replacement project begins Aug. 4

    HARTLETON — A PennDOT maintenance crew in Union County will begin a bridge replacement project Aug. 4 on Pleasant Grove Road, Route 3005, in Lewis Township, between Moll Road and Wirth Road, north of Pleasant Grove.

    July 23, 2014

  • DanCrash23.jpg BREAKING NEWS: Woman killed today in Danville area collision

    DANVILLE – An older woman, from the area, was killed in a log truck-car crash at about 1:45 this afternoon at Routes 642 and 54 in Valley Township.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jay Paterno sues Penn State for 'rush to judgment'

    STATE COLLEGE - Two former Penn State assistant football coaches, including a son of the late Joe Paterno, are suing the university, alleging that it fired them prematurely after the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal surfaced.

    July 23, 2014

  • 400-pound bull on the lam

    State police and a western Pennsylvania cattle owner are looking for a 2-year-old bull that has been missing for more than a week.

    July 23, 2014

  • Complainer: Cars whiz by, and drivers take whiz

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike has asked state police to increase patrols near an area of the toll road where a woman says she can see motorists exposing and relieving themselves near her backyard.

    July 23, 2014

  • spider24online.jpg Arachnid alert!

    We came across this spider brunching on another today near the American Legion post in Herndon. We aren't sure what type of spiders they are. Particularly the one with the full stomach. Do you?

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today's Editorial: Experts showing the way for reform

    Domestic abuse remains one of the most prevalent crimes nationally yet remains routinely unreported.

    July 23, 2014

  • Feds ship 500 children to Pennsylvania

    HARRISBURG — An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern U.S. border is spilling into Pennsylvania, as state officials received word Monday that more than 500 are being housed in the commonwealth.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hope Lewis Inmate's widow wants $750,000 from Northumberland County

    SUNBURY — The widow of a Shamokin man who hanged himself inside Northumberland County Prison is demanding $750,000, the firing of all jail employees who worked the night of June 16 and a complete overhaul of policies and procedures for suicidal inmates.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vancliff Lifer gets more time for molesting Danville girls

    WILKES-BARRE — A convicted murderer accused of having persuaded a former Danville woman to bring two girls to visit him in a northeastern Pennsylvania prison so he could molest them has been sentenced to additional prison time and fined.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.