Trout Unlimited issued to its members today a call to action regarding changes to gas drilling regulations proposed by the SRBC (Susquehanna River Basin Commission). According to Trout Unlimited, these changes pose a significant threat to water quality and aquatic life in the Susquehanna River Basin, which includes some of the finest trout rivers and streams in Pennsylvania. Many of the proposed changes identify an ease of administrative burdens on the SRBC, rather than scientific or case-proven rationale, as their motivating factor.
One of the key proposed changes is the extension of the life-cycle of water withdrawal permits for drilling operations from the current 5 to 15 years, citing the aforementioned "ease of administrative burden" which would result from lengthening permit life. Trout Unlimited argues that once drilling operations come online in neighboring New York and Maryland, the burden of dramatically increased water withdrawal from area streams and rivers could have dire consequences. The current 5 year permit cycle, argues TU, would allow for reasonable re-evaluation of the burden of water withdrawal on resources in the Susquehanna River Basin.
Another, perhaps more important change, proposed by the SRBC is the institution of "approval by rule" which, in short, allows approval of operations which meet certain criteria to be "fast-tracked" to the executive director for direct approval, without requiring review by the commission. Not only does this reduce the amount of scrutiny applied by the SRBC, it removes the ability for the public to provide input on newly proposed operations.
Also included in the SRBC's proposed changes are the allowance of well-to-well transfers of waste water from drilling operations. These allowances could also fall under the "approval by rule" process, removing public scrutiny on operations that involve "the transfer of fluids that may contain heavy metals, chemicals, salts and radioactive elements".
To learn more about the proposed changes, or to respond to TU's call to action, visit the Trout Unlimited Action Center.