Susquehanna Listing Sparks Oversight Controversy

susquehanna river - one of america's most endangered riversOn Tuesday, American Rivers listed the Susquehanna River as America’s Most Endangered River because we are concerned about the threat of natural gas development in the watershed.

Why are we concerned? Because drilling permits are being issued like gangbusters, and this river provides drinking water to more than 6 million people.

The Susquehanna is one of the longest rivers in the nation, and provides over half of the water to Chesapeake Bay. We don’t think we should be rushing into this with our hair on fire (a real possibility if you’ve seen the images of flaming water) without making sure that we have strong safeguards in place and enforced.

Consequently, we called on the states of Pennsylvania and New York, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to issue a moratorium until they make sure that things are being done the safest way possible. However, the SRBC is insisting that they don’t have any authority to manage water quality in the Susquehanna Basin. Upon a close review of the SRBC Compact, we disagree.

In fact, the SRBC has the authority over “planning, decision, and operation of all projects and facilities in the basin to the extent they affect water resources” – we think that covers natural gas operations.

Finally, SRBC is also questioning our analysis of water withdrawals. A breakdown of that analysis can be found in the above document link. However, our ultimate take-home point on water withdrawals and water quality is that no agency (state, regional, or federal) is looking at the impacts of natural gas development and fracking on a cumulative scale. While one explosion, spill, or water withdrawal may not have a massive impact on the river, we aren’t talking about one well. We are talking about thousands that will be developed.

We need to be looking at this on a broader scale in order to really understand what the impact will be over time.