A major gas boom is underway in northern Appalachia where energy companies from across the United States have come to drill for gas in a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale. Underlying parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland, the Marcellus Shale was thought to be inaccessible just a few years ago. Today, it is the “hot ticket” in the energy market due to technological advances in horizontal drilling and proximity to Eastern gas markets.
Gas is extracted from the Marcellus Shale using a technique called “fracking,” which involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals deep into the shale layer at high pressure. Each well that is drilled can require up to nine million gallons of water to facilitate the extraction of gas, water that is later expelled over time as chemically-ridden wastewater.
The northern Appalachian region, particularly West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is still reeling from century-old impacts of the energy industry, including acid mine drainage issues from coal mines and the devastating ecological impacts of mountain top removal activities. Even with the best environmental standards in place, the sheer number of projected gas wells in the Marcellus Shale is likely to have a demonstrable impact on the region and its coldwater fisheries habitat.
New roads and pipelines are being built that will bisect wildlife habitat and thousands of acres of land are being cleared to construct drilling sites. Water withdrawals are occurring in both large and small streams that could have profound effects on natural stream flows. And water quality is being put at risk both through the injection of chemicals into the deep drill sites and through the discharge of wastewater.
These impacts to northern Appalachia's wildlife populations and storied trout streams is directly affecting hunters and anglers—and the economy built up to support hunting and fishing activities. Because of this, TU members in the region, and sportsmen more broadly, have engaged in a campaign to protect northern Appalachia's rich land and water resources. To that end, TU is working with federal, state, and local partners to monitor gas drilling impacts and to promote sound management policies to protect prized trout fisheries and their watersheds.
Learn more about how TU is partnering with the Pennsylvania Council of TU to implement a stream surveillance program - the Coldwater Conservation Corps - putting boots on the ground to ensure that gas drilling does not impact special watersheds.
TU is also working with other sportsmen organizations to identify solutions to the threats that Marcellus Shale drilling poses to fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing, bringing these groups together so that we may more effectively engage in advocacy efforts.