Citing public opposition and tight restrictions, Chesapeake Energy has dropped its controversial request to withdraw a million gallons of water per day from New York’s best trout stream, the West Branch of the Delaware River.
“In light of the limitations proposed for the project and the comments provided by various parties, we have decided to withdraw the application and reassess our approach to the situation,” the Charleston, W. Va. company wrote to Mark Klotz, chairman of the Delaware River Basin Commission, in a letter dated Oct. 20.
In September, when the company asked the DRBC to postpone a hearing on the project, it said it hadn’t had time to examine conditions the DRBC wanted to impose – “particularly with respect to the proposed pass-by flow.” The DRBC had planned to require the company to stop withdrawing water any time the West Branch got down to a flow of 250 cubic feet per second at the withdrawal site, about eight miles below Hale Eddy, N.Y.
The water was to have been used for hydro-fracturing, a method of drilling that permits access to what might be 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas trapped thousands of feet underneath Pennsylvania, West Virginia and southern New York.
Hydro-fracturing has been viewed with alarm by fishing advocates, who fear fragile trout streams will be seen as cheap and convenient sources of water. Each gas welll uses as much as 9 million gallons, and some experts predict thousands of such wells could spring up on the Marcellus Shale formation over the coming years. Hundreds of thousands of acres of private land have already been leased by energy companies hoping to drill.
Hydro-fracturing is also controversial because the water it injects into and then withdraws from wells is densely polluted with highly toxic substances. Groundwater contamination and fish kills from spills in streams have been reported in several states.