Saving the Susquehanna from Drilling: Why It Matters and How to Do It


Courtesy of Julie Ann Edgar

The mighty Susquehanna River stretches 400 miles across three states (Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania), provides drinking water to millions of people, and supports many unique natural environments. But in 2011, American Rivers named it the nation’s most endangered river because of the risks posed by natural gas development.

That’s why a broad network of organizations and citizens across Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania have come together to make sure that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) steps up to protect communities and the environment from the harmful impacts of gas operations, which use a lot of water and create a lot of pollution. Fortunately, there are ways to do this—and it’s important for anyone who cares about water supplies to get involved.

SRBC is a special federal-interstate agency entrusted with managing a shared, public resource, the waters of the Susquehanna River Basin. Made up of representatives from governments in three states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency is required to issue permits for a range of purposes— including both drinking water supplies and industries like gas drilling. But it’s also charged with conserving water quantity and quality for current and future generations.

SRBC must stop conducting business as usual by issuing water withdrawal permits one-by-one. SRBC reviews each application for a water withdrawal permit. But even if a single permit seems minor, thousands together can have major effects, especially over time and across the Basin as a whole. This piecemeal approach ignores the connections among different waterways and supports gas development despite damage caused.

SRBC needs to develop a plan for using and protecting water resources that is based on long-term planning and sound science. The Commission is preparing to revise its Comprehensive Plan for the Water Resources of the Susquehanna River Basin, due in 2013. It should focus on the challenges to water resources and quality posed by gas development, both now and because of industry plans to expand operations in both the Marcellus and Utica Shale areas.

No more water withdrawal permits should be allowed until such a plan is adopted. Until then, the impacts of shale gas development on the entire Basin can’t be fully understood or measures put in place to prevent them—risking even more pollution and environmental harm.

The impacts of shale gas development don’t stop at state borders and are beyond the capacity of any one state to handle. With the Susquehanna providing half of the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania all have to meet a federal requirement (known as the Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, rule) to reduce pollution flowing downstream. This includes sediment runoff into waterways, one of the most direct effects of gas development.

The SRBC Compact requires all member states to jointly take responsibility for water use and management in the Basin. But when it comes to natural gas development, activities in just one member state, Pennsylvania, are driving SRBC’s decisions. Maryland and New York don’t yet allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing and are still studying the impacts of gas development and considering new regulations. SRBC should base decisions about permits and policies on what all member states want—and citizens across the entire Basin have a right to demand better protections.

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Lettr From Nathan Sooy

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) is trying real hard to ignore us. Yesterday, we spoke at the SRBC’s so-called Public Comment Meeting. We presented the technical reasons that the SRBC must do a Comprehensive Environmental Study of the Effects of Shale Gas Operations. And we told the SRBC about the grassroots Campaign to Save the Susquehanna. Over 1500 letters have already been written to the Susquehanna Governors and the Army Corps of Engineers.
But – the SRBC still largely sees this all as BUSINESS AS USUAL. We need to change that.
The SRBC Governors and the Army Corps must be BURIED in emails, letters, and phone calls.
That is why we need you to MOBILIZE your groups NOW to send these letters.
If you are from New York or Maryland, please direct your group members to this website to send their emailed letters:
If you are from Pennsylvania, please direct your group members to this website to send their emailed letters:
NOW is the time to take action. Not later.

Nathan Sooy
Clean Water Action
717-233-1801 office

Clean Water Action, Earthworks, PennEnvironment, Sierra Club, and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper have begun a campaign to influence the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) on Fracking.


Read below for the lowdown on the effort:


Friends of Clean Water,

We had a fantastic kickoff last Wednesday for our Campaign to Save the Susquehanna. We will influence the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to enact a Comprehensive Environmental Study of the Effects of Fracking Operations on the Susquehanna watershed.

It is time for you to pitch in.  We need you to get the people you know to write emails, write letters, postcards, etc. to your Governor and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Attached you will find the SRBC Campaign Outreach Materials that you can use or adapt for your organization’s use.  The important thing is to reach out to your members and contacts during the next 7 to 10 days. You need to underscore the urgency to contact our Governor and the Army Corps of Engineers.  We need to generate hundreds and thousands of emails to the Governors of the 3 States and the Army Corps.

Please let me know what your questions are.  We need you to get started ASAP.

with regards,
Nathan Sooy
Clean Water Action, Harrisburg
717-233-1801 office

Click here to view the Campaign Cover Sheet

Click here to view the Sample SBRC Email Alert

Click here to View the Postcard Letter to Governor Corbett

Click here to view the Postcard Letter to Colonel Kent D. Savre, US Army Corps of Engineer