Appalachian Basin

Agency Report: Fracking Is Not Harming Streams in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s shale industry is not having a negative impact on streams in the state, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the state Department of Environmental Protection. From the study:

“No quantifiable relationships were identified between the intensity of [oil and natural gas] development, water composition, and the composition of benthic macroinvertebrate and microbial communities. No definitive indications that hydraulic fracturing fluid, flowback water, or produced water have entered any of the study streams were found.”

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed data that its researchers collected from streams in 25 watersheds over a two-year period in order to provide a “comprehensive evaluation of the geochemical and biological effects of shale gas development.”

The findings further support the conclusions of PaDEP’s 2018 annual report that found:

“DEP’s oil and gas program completed an initial audit and field study of the information reported by operators and found that most of the data submitted suggests that wells in the state are being operated in a manner that is protective of water resources.” (emphasis added)

It also builds on more than 30 peer-reviewed studies and scientific research – several of which are specific to Pennsylvania – that have determined fracking is not a major threat to groundwater:

  • Department of Environmental Protection (2018): “[T]here is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a direct impact to a water supply in Pennsylvania.”
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (2018): “Water quality monitoring efforts by the bureau and its partners have not raised significant concerns on state forest headwater streams to date.”
  • Yale University (2018): “Collectively, our observations suggest that [shale gas development] was an unlikely source of methane in our valley wells.”
  • Penn State University (2018): “The most interesting thing we discovered was the groundwater chemistry in one of the areas most heavily developed for shale gas – an area with 1400 new gas wells – does not appear to be getting worse with time, and may even be getting better.”
  • Department of Environmental Protection (2018): “[T]he majority of wells in the state are being operated in a manner that greatly reduces the risk for groundwater impacts.”
  • Susquehanna River Basin Commission (2017): “To date, the Commission’s network of monitors has not detected discernible impacts [from shale development] on the Basin’s water resources…”

As Rebecca Oyler, the Pennsylvania Legislative Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, told Pennsylvania Business Report:

“The study just released by PNAS confirms what we’ve known all along that the responsible development of Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources is not incompatible with protecting our environment.”


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