PA DEP Wants to Use Acid Mine Drainage for Fracking Water

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is floating the idea of using a portion of the 300 million gallons of acid mine drainage that flows each and every day from abandoned coal mines in that state as a source of water for Marcellus Shale gas fracking.

State environmental officials want to give Marcellus Shale drillers an incentive to use mine water in drilling operations by offering a quick response to proposals within 15 days.

The policy outlined at a public meeting Tuesday would couple the natural gas industry’s need for massive amounts of water in hydrofracking and the longstanding problem of cleaning up 5,000 miles of waterway in Pennsylvania impaired by acid mine drainage.

"This is a really good opportunity for the industry to get the water they need and address historic mine drainage problems," said John Stefanko, a deputy secretary in the Department of Environmental Protection.

He said a three-member mine water use review team would provide quick feedback on the types of permits needed and other issues to any water-use proposal submitted by a gas driller.

DEP is delving into a number of issues raised by the prospect of diverting a portion of an estimated 300 million gallons of acid mine drainage that flows each day from abandoned mines and flooded pits into rivers and streams for industry use. This goal was endorsed by the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission last summer. DEP plans to issue a position paper on the topic next month after getting more public comment.*

*The Scranton Times Tribune (Jan 25, 2012) – DEP Weighs mine water for fracking