Louisiana Partnership Held Up As Water Protection Model

Potter County Today

haynesville“Partnership” was a term heard frequently throughout the 2010 Marcellus Shale Summit in State College, which concluded on Tuesday evening. Among the programs was a summary of a cooperative effort to protect an environmentally sensitive area in northwest Louisiana during intensified shale gas drilling. Some of the people directly involved with the protection of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer near Shreveport addressed more than 400 people attending the Summit. Regulators, gas companies and scientists from Louisiana State University teamed to safeguard a source of water for residents and agriculture in a generally rural part of the state which became depleted when drillers tapped a number of wells for water that was used for hydrofracturing.

Jim Welsh, Louisiana’s conservation commissioner, said the team approach resulted in gas companies adjusting their operations to draw water from alternative sources.

Louisiana State University had established a watershed protection institute at Shreveport campus, noted Gary Hanson, the institute’s director. “It’s very fortunate we were in place when the (shale gas) boom hit,” he said. “We were able to provide some order during a period which normally would have been chaotic.” His institute confirmed the impact of water well withdrawals for hydrofracturing.

As a result of the Carrizo-Wilcox episode and continuing communications between regulatory, scientific and industry representatives, most shale gas production in Louisiana now uses surface water.

Could a similar situation occur in Pennsylvania? Mike Mathis, Chesapeake Energy’s regulatory affairs director for water programs, thinks not. “There’s a lot of surface water in Pennsylvania,” he said. “Some of it is in inconvenient locations, which can pose a challenge. We try to work closely with communities, water authorities, and landowners. It’s incumbent on the industry for its members to be at the table and be good corporate citizens.”

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