A drop in northern Pennsylvania stream flow levels once again has forced the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to suspend water withdrawal permits for more than 22 companies holding 37 separate permits in Pennsylvania and New York. More than half of the companies affected are energy operators working in the Marcellus Shale.

Drought conditions led the SRBC to suspend briefly more than a dozen withdrawal permits from mid-April to early May (see Shale Daily, May 3).

Energy operators affected by the suspensions in New York’s Chemung County were SWEPI LP and Talisman Energy. All of the rest of the energy operators that were required to suspend water withdrawals work in Pennsylvania.

In Bradford County, Chesapeake Appalachia, Talisman and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. were ordered to suspend water withdrawals, while in Lycoming County, affected operators were Exco Resources, PA General Energy Co. and XTO Energy Inc.

In Potter County, Ultra Resources Inc.’s operations were suspended from withdrawing water, and in Susquehanna County, Carrizo (Marcellus), Southwestern Energy Production Co. and Tennessee were ordered to stop taking water. Tioga County operators affected were SWEPI, Tennessee and Ultra, while in Wyoming County, Carrizo has suspended withdrawals.

The SRBC is required under its 2003 pass-by flow restrictions to not allow operators to take water when streams in northern Pennsylvania drop to predetermined protected low-flow levels. The data used to determine the restrictions is generated by stream gauges that are operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. Water restrictions are lifted when streams have recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours.

The commission earlier this year released a proposed low flow protection policy to incorporate technical guidance when reviewing withdrawal applications, as well as to establish limits and conditions on approvals consistent with the commission’s regulatory standards. Written comments are due by July 16.