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Environmental Group Claims Marcellus Shale Drilling Illegally Uses Water in PA

The Allegheny Defense Project claims that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is illegally permitting natural gas companies to withdraw water from rivers and streams for use in the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, reports Reuters.

The environmental group says the state’s DEP does not have a legal right to permit drillers to take millions of gallons of water from rivers in the western part of the state as the right belongs to owners of riparian land that borders the waterway, according to the article.

Supporting the group’s argument, Joseph Dellapenna, a Villanova University law professor who specializes in water rights, said in an email to Reuters that the DEP’s authority to “regulate water withdrawals for public water supply facilities and power under the Clean Streams Act to regulate activities that impair water quality” don’t authorize DEP to give permission to withdraw water for Marcellus Shale use.

According to the DEP, industry drilled 822 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania in the first seven months of 2010, with about 40 percent of those wells in the western part of the state, reports Reuters. About three million gallons of water are typically required for each well that is hydraulically fractured, or “fracked.”

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a $1.9-million research study into the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing used in the extraction of natural gas on water quality and public health.

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