Civility reigned as the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) held a public hearing in Harrisburg, PA, on Thursday to accept comments on 26 pending water withdrawal permits, most of which were submitted by operators in the Marcellus Shale.
All but two of the 26 permits had been approved by the SRBC at its Dec. 15 meeting in Wilkes-Barre, PA, but the commission ultimately decided to reconsider them after anti-drilling activists disrupted the proceedings and forced testimony to be cut short.
SRBC spokeswoman Susan Obleski told NGI's Shale Daily that about 100 people attended the meeting, which was run by a hearing officer, not the commissioner members themselves. She said about 30 people took turns at the podium, with testimony lasting about two hours.
"Everybody reasonably stayed within the three-minute time frame that the hearing officer had established," Obleski said Friday. "It was a very smooth meeting, and anybody who wanted to make comments got the opportunity. It was good example of the democratic process at work. Nobody was kept from making the remarks that they wanted to."
Obleski said Kelly Hefner, Pennsylvania's second alternate to the SRBC, attended the meeting but was not required to do so. She confirmed that representatives from Maryland and New York were not present.
"I think the process of having the separate hearings a month before, just to get comments on the applications, will be our new process," Obleski said.
The SRBC plans to hold its next commission meeting on March 15, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the North Office Building of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. It will reconsider the 26 permit requests from the December meeting, 18 of which were from Marcellus operators (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26).
Also on the agenda for the March meeting are 34 water withdrawal permits requests. These include 19 from:
Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller told NGI's Shale Daily that he attended Thursday's meeting and thought about speaking, but said, "I knew the audience that was there was not going to welcome what I had to say.
"Having watched the development of this whole process, I'm impressed with the way the SRBC has handled this issue," Miller said Friday. "The operators, the trucking companies and the people that they lease to are all trying very hard to be good stewards of what they're doing. I think most everybody involved is doing a pretty good job of policing themselves to be conscientious of the environment."
But Miller, who owns 50 acres in Terry Township, said "extreme environmentalism" was the prevailing mood at Thursday's meeting, with opponents of hydraulic fracturing claiming Marcellus Shale oil and gas operations were killing livestock, among other things.
"I was listening to some of the testimony down there and it was as if I was living in a different county," Miller said. "I was shocked to hear some of the things that were being said."
The Susquehanna River Basin covers 27,510 square miles, including half of Pennsylvania and parts of New York and Maryland, and makes up a sizeable portion of the Marcellus Shale play. It is managed by the SRBC, a compact set up by the federal government in 1971. Representatives from the three aforementioned states and the Army Corps of Engineers serve as commissioners.