From the Columbus Dispatch:
State officials urged a drilling company not to take water from a Columbiana County creek for a “ fracking” operation because of fears that the action might threaten wildlife and an endangered salamander.
Chesapeake Energy ultimately decided not to take water from a branch of Little Beaver Creek, a state-designated wild and scenic river. Records from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show that agency officials had discussed their concerns as far back as April.
“I know that we don’t have any jurisdiction over this issue, but I am concerned with how water withdraws might affect the ... Little Beaver Creek,” wrote Matthew Smith, a regional scenic-river manager, in an April 12 email to his boss, state scenic-rivers manager Bob Gable.
“There may be impact to the endangered hellbender salamander and fresh water mussels in the stream,” Smith wrote.Little Beaver Creek is the first location in Ohio where state officials acknowledge a potential problem with withdrawing water for fracking, a process that injects millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter shale and free trapped oil and gas.“We placed a call and said, ‘Hey, we got your registration and please be aware that there are concerns that there could potentially be problems,’ ” said Ted Lozier, the agency’s deputy chief of soil and water resources.
Environmental advocacy groups say fracking is a pollution threat. Industry officials say it’s safe. At the same time, the question of whether there is enough water for fracking has become an issue of its own.“Troubled Waters,” a Dispatch investigation published last week, found that growing fracking needs in Carroll County alone could consume as much as 805 million gallons of water. State records show that drilling companies and mines used 3.5 million gallons in Carroll County in 2010.
ODNR spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said the experience with Chesapeake shows that the state can work cooperatively with drilling companies to protect streams.
In a written statement, the Oklahoma City-based company said it decided to “transport the necessary water from another location” to frack its Kernich well, located near Little Beaver in Columbiana County’s Madison Township.Environmental advocates say the state should have more authority to limit water withdrawals. State law requires companies that plan to withdraw at least 100,000 gallons of water a day to notify the state and report how much they took at the end of the year.
A company that drains a stream can be sued by downstream landowners who are deprived of water. It also risks state fines for killing fish and wildlife.
“There is no good oversight system or enforcement over where water is being withdrawn,” said Melanie Houston, water-policy director for the advocacy group Ohio Environmental Council. “There are small streams and tributaries that can be very easily overstressed.”
Records show that state officials got involved after Madison Township Trustee Roger Walker called Smith. Walker said a Chesapeake Energy contractor informed trustees during a township meeting that it planned to take water upstream from the scenic-designated sections of the creek.“I was just concerned about how much water they were going to suck out at one time,” Walker said. “The creek was low. We had some bad weather, and there was no water.”
Little Beaver Creek boasts Ohio’s largest population of eastern hellbender salamanders. In 1974, the state included 36 miles of its main stem, Middle Fork and North Fork in its scenic-rivers program.
Gable said the scenic title doesn’t mean a stream is protected from businesses that want to draw water.
“Those (scenic) designations have no bearing on that activity or any other private land use or private enterprise,” he said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.