Philadelphia dives in to gas drilling issue in Wayne County

Date: April 6, 2010

By Steve McConnell (Staff writer)
Published: March 30, 201

Philadelphia City Council urged an environmental regulator Thursday to deny two natural gas drilling permits slated for an energy company seeking to move ahead with its stalled operation in Wayne County.

The 17-member city council unanimously approved a resolution that asks the Delaware River Basin Commission to conduct an environmental impact study of natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed prior to approving any permits.

David Forde, chief of staff for Councilwoman Blondell R. Brown, who sponsored the resolution, said the council is concerned natural gas drilling in the watershed could have a downstream impact on city residents who depend on it for drinking water.

“We did some research and saw the concern folks had were legitimate,” Mr. Forde said.

According to the resolution, 15 million people rely on the Delaware River watershed for drinking, agricultural and industrial uses. This includes 2 million people who are customers of the city’s public water department.

Requested by Louisiana-based Stone Energy Corp., the permits are part of only a handful of industry requests before the commission, which has jurisdiction over water resources. None has been approved.

In a county that has not seen any producing Marcellus Shale wells, the permits involve a prospective Marcellus Shale site in Clinton Twp., Wayne County. The issue is bringing the City of Brotherly Love and this predominately agricultural county much closer than ever imagined.

Energy In Depth, an industry organization, called the city “not very brotherly” since the action infringes on county residents’ private property rights to lease for energy development, said the organization in a press release.

An environmental impact study, an intensive and time-consuming endeavor, would determine whether natural gas drilling poses a legitimate threat to the Delaware River watershed, a 13,539-square-mile area that encompasses nearly all of Wayne County and is known for its pristine water quality and world-class trout waters.

Commission spokesman Clarke Rupert said Monday the regulator is considering conducting such a study. A decision on a $250,000 appropriation request by the commission is not expected until late 2010.

The Philadelphia resolution also calls for a complete ban on natural gas drilling in the basin until such a study has been conducted.

At a public hearing last month in Pike County, an overwhelming majority told Delaware River Basin Commission officials to nix Stone Energy’s Wayne County plan until an environmental impact study is completed.

Stone Energy Corp. is seeking commission approval to hydraulically fracture its Clinton Twp. well and to withdraw up to 700,000 gallons of water a day from the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River in Mount Pleasant Twp.

The commission staff halted operations there in 2008 for lacking a permit. The company has received the go-ahead from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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Copyright: The Times Tribune

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