Anti-Drillers Try to Stop SRBC Meeting in Harrisburg

Yet another case of anti-drillers behaving badly. At yesterday’s meeting of commissioners of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) in Harrisburg, PA, demonstrators tried to stop the commissioners from doing their work during an open meeting. The commissioners were voting on water withdrawal requests for Marcellus drillers, among other items on the agenda. And protestors once again tried to stop an SRBC open and public meeting.

Demonstrators on Thursday disrupted another meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to protest the approval of more water use by Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling companies.

The five Susquehanna River Basin Commission members approved 48 applications over the demonstrators’ chants of "We pledge to protect the Susquehanna."

The commission, which regulates the water quantity—but not quality—in a region that supplies water for 6 million people, including Baltimore, has representatives from the federal government, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.

Panel officials defended the approvals, saying natural gas drilling is not a threat to water quantity in the river basin, while a spokesman for an industry group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said "responsible natural gas development and the environment can, do and must co-exist."

Commission executive director Paul Swartz said the agency is being careful about the timing and location of the water withdrawals to protect smaller waterways from going dry or getting too low. He said it encourages the withdrawals from larger bodies of water.

Swartz said that, at full bore, the industry would be the fourth-largest water user in the basin behind public water systems, power plants and recreational use such as golf courses and snow-making. Drilling companies use about 11 million gallons daily now, about one-third of their projected use when the industry is fully engaged in the basin, Swartz said.*

It doesn’t seem matter to the protesters that drillers are way down the list of water users in the state—it doesn’t matter that golf courses and ski resorts use more water than drillers do. Their single-minded (and unrealistic) objective? Stop all drilling.

The demonstrators also disrupted a meeting of the commission in Wilkes-Barre in December. If they persist in behaving badly, the SRBC has no choice but to go into executive session for their meetings and lock out the public. Which of course would bring howls of violating open meeting laws. But honestly, what choice do they have in the face of law-breaking anti-drillers?

*York (PA) Daily Record (Mar 15, 2012) – Pa. river commission OKs more drilling water use