Marcellus Watch: Judge’s ruling protects Corning aquifer

Marcellus Watch: Judge’s ruling protects Corning aquifer by Peter Mantius, April 1, 2013, Corning Leader
While the craven New York State Legislature has been AWOL on vital gas drilling issues for years, state court judges, fortunately, have been quietly doing their job. Last week a state Supreme Court judge in Rochester smacked down efforts by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell to purchase fresh water to frack its Pennsylvania gas wells from the financially down-and-out Village of Painted Post. At the behest of the thirsty energy giant, Painted Post had attempted to “short-circuit” New York State’s environmental review process, Supreme Court Justice Kenneth R. Fisher wrote March 25. The village draws its water from the Corning aquifer, a relatively shallow, rain-dependent source that also supports several other communities. It has been selling water to Shell subsidiary Swepi LP under a contract that could provide it a reported $2.6 million a year for supplying up to 1 million gallons of water a day. Fisher granted an injunction to halt the sale and rail shipment of the water to Wellsboro, Pa., about 40 miles south. Painted Post had tried to duck out of an environmental review of the shady cross-border deal by arguing that the water from the aquifer is “surplus property.” Fisher poured cold water on that idea, writing: “A large volume daily withdrawal of a resource vital to the well being of our state is not a mere surplus sale of village property akin to selling a bus or a fire engine no longer needed by the village.” Now Painted Post must comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act before its sells any more water to Pennsylvania frackers. That’s just common sense, and it’s the law.

Meanwhile, Shell will have to scramble for other water sources to serve its Pennsylvania fracking operations. In 2010, the company paid $4.7 billion to acquire East Resources, a gas driller with hundreds of thousands of acres under lease in that state, much of it around Wellsboro and Mansfield in Tioga County. Why did Shell need to buy all that water from a New York aquifer only 40 miles away? Because Tioga County has run so short of water that it’s living in fear of droughts and limiting withdrawals, according to a December 2012 report in the Williamsport (PA) Sun-Gazette. “We don’t want to keep issuing tap-ins and then go into a drought and have no water for existing customers,” Barry Cleveland, chief water operator in Mansfield, told the newspaper. … Shell convinced Painted Post to cash in without giving any consideration to competing claims on the aquifer it shares. Suppose every community did that. Good thing there’s a law against it. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Encana plans to drill dozens of fracking wells The Traverse City Record-Eagle…says the wells would need 300 million gallons of groundwater.

Encana looks at purchasing wastewater from the Town of Rimbey

AEA: Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe ”A proportion (25% to 100%) of the water used in hydraulic fracturing is not recovered, and consequently this water is lost permanently to re-use, which differs from some other water uses in which water can be recovered and processed for re-use.” [Emphasis added]

A Primer for Understanding Canadian Shale Gas – Energy Briefing Note by National Energy Board, November 2009. “Drilling and hydraulically fracturing wells can be water-intensive procedures; however, there is very limited Canadian experience from which to estimate potential environmental impacts.” ….the rate of development of shale gas may become limited by the availability of required resources, such as fresh water….

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