Most of the water we use during our operations comes from the Susquehanna River Basin.
The Susquehanna River and its hundreds of tributaries stretch across 27,510 square miles, roughly the size of South Carolina, making up the watershed defined as the Susquehanna River Basin. The entire Basin stretches over three states, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In order to regulate pollution and overuse the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) was established by the federal government to, “coordinate the water resources efforts of the three states and the federal government.”
The basic mission of the SRBC as defined in their Compact, “is to enhance public welfare through comprehensive planning, water supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.”
Basically, the SRBC is in charge of regulating the amount of water that can be removed from the basin. This means that any company who wants to remove water from any part of the basin must have their withdrawal approved by the SRBC.
One of the elements that we consider when planning a well pad site is its proximity to a water source. Within the Susquehanna River Basin, Cabot has multiple withdrawal sites that have been approved by the SRBC. From that withdrawal site we then transport it directly to the well pad or take the water and put it into an impoundment, which is basically a manmade lake, to store the water until it’s needed.
The SRBC is in charge of much of the water regulation in the Marcellus Shale. The SRBC posts fact sheets on its website explaining their regulation of different industries. We have included the major steps of the approval process for a general understanding. The oil and gas industry has a specific approval process as outlined on the website.
Here is a broken down version:
- Company applies for withdrawal
- Public Notice in local papers
- Time period for public comment
- Evaluation of the possible impacts to the water resources (fish, wildlife, habitat, stream flow etc.)
- Environmental review for each proposed withdrawal site
- On-site evaluation
- Approval by Rule: the process by which the SRBC tracks all water activity associated with a drilling pad, the sources of the water to and from a site and the quantities consumed
The SRBC has adapted a special process for the oil and gas industry called “Approval by Rule” which allows companies to apply for expedited approval for a specific list of sources. This allows the SRBC to track water use on a well by well basis and issue approvals more efficiently. The entire approval process from start to finish can take up to a year.
Companies are subjected to various fees throughout the approval and review process. Then once they are granted a permit to establish their withdrawal site and build an impoundment they must pay a withdrawal fee.
Throughout the approval and permit process companies must pay fees to the SRBC for their applications and permits. The fee per well pad is $10,000 in addition to a $1,000 public source fee and an additional $500 per additional source. Also, all withdrawal permits must be renewed every year which is another annual cost of $2,500. After all the applications are completed the cost could be up to $15,000.
All fees are paid by the company to the SRBC.
The oil and gas industry is not the only industry that removes water from the river basin. The SRBC monitors every water withdrawal within the Susquehanna River Basin. Some other industries that work closely with the SRBC include,
- Golf Course
- Hydroelectric power