Student Guide

The Question: Can Pennsylvania’s Water Resources Endure the Marcellus Shale Boom?

Part 1: Investigating Impacts of Marcellus Shale Drilling on Aquatic Biodiversity

Perhaps nothing has generated more public concern about development of the Marcellus Shale than potential water quality impacts”. (Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 2009)

Using videos, newspaper articles, and essays from our Marcellus Shale water resource guides, explore the pros and cons of Marcellus Shale drilling on aquatic biodiversity and water quality in the Susquehanna watershed. All materials can be found on this website, either as pdf documents or as internet links. To get started, jump into the Background Readings and follow the links to learn more about the issue-at-large. Focus first on the essays from the water resource guides; they provide an excellent overview of the drilling process, identify who regulates water use and how it is regulated in PA, and describe some of the potential environmental impacts.

At the bottom of each section, you'll find a list of additional background resources. These are not required readings, but you may want to use them to follow-up on an issue you would like to research in-depth for your point-of-view papers.*It is important that you review a variety of materials (not just the anti-drilling materials) to gather your information.*

Part 2: To Permit or Not to Permit? What’s Your Point-of-View?

The Scenario:

Cobalt Gas Company is submitting a permit application to Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection. They'd like to drill a horizontal natural gas well on a former dairy farm bordering the Tioga State Forest. The farm has been in the family for over 150 years. It’s located in Lycoming County, in the Pine Creek watershed, upstream from Cedar Run. The closest wastewater treatment plant is about 25 miles away in Wellsboro, PA.

The Project:

Your teacher will divide your class into small groups. Each group will be assigned to an organization or interest group from the stakeholders listed below. Your group should create a unique nickname to represent your interest group or organization, i.e. “Anglers R Us” for the “Anglers, boaters, and recreational users” interest group.

  • Anglers, boaters, and recreational users
  • Conservation organizationss
  • Environmental agency employee
  • Government officials (local or state)
  • Landowners
  • Local businesses
  • Natural gas industry
  • Other?
What is a stakeholder?
A person, or group of people involved in, or affected by an activity, such as drilling the Marcellus Shale.

Acting as a stakeholder group, you’ll write a one page (250-500 word) paper discussing your point-of-view (landowner, business owner, DEP employee, etc.) on whether Cobalt Gas Company should be given a permit for well drilling at the specific site using: 1) the information learned from the background readings and videos and 2) new information about the watershed from the resources listed below. Be sure to include facts and references from your readings to justify your point-of-view. Additional resources specific to each interest group or organization can be found here.

Before you start your research, watch this short
rap video.

What do you think about the video? Who produced it? Are they pro-drilling, or anti-drilling? Are the facts based on scientific data, or public opinion? As you read up on this hot issue, you’ll encounter a wide variety of information, some biased, some balanced, some fact-based, some opinionated. As you write your POV papers, your job is to think critically about the source of the information you’re reading and how to use it to best support your stakeholder position.

Additional Resources for Researching Point-of-View Papers (Links opens a new widnow.):

  • Watersheds with Documented AMD/Acid Impairment and Wild Brook Trout
  • Land Use and Land Cover in the West Branch of the Susquehanna

Other Resources:
  • Pine Creek Watershed Rivers Conservation Plan
  • Biologist Report for Cedar Run (Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.)
  • EPA’s Pollution Scorecard for Water Quality in Lycoming County, PA
  • USGS Stream Gage Data for Pine Creek at Cedar Run
  • Pennsylvania DEP Natural Gas Well Permit Application Form

After the point-of-view papers are completed, you’ll have the opportunity to post them for review and discussion on the online, moderated forum: Shale Talk. (For more directions on using Shale Talk, see the Guide to Using Shale Talk). Your papers should be submitted to the Shale Talk E-forum during the week of February 4-8, 2013. You’ll have a 2 week period, (February 11-22), to read and comment on the papers posted by other students participating in the E-forum. Moderators from industry and other organizations will help referee the questions and comments you post.

Ground Rules for Shale Talk E-Forum
  1. Participate! Ask questions and make comments on what you read. The discussion group is only as interesting as you make it. The moderators are here to help you expand your knowledge of the impacts of natural gas development on aquatic ecosystems, economics, and local communities.
  2. When you comment on point-of-view papers, try to reference resources from the E-forum website, or others you have found during your online research.
  3. Respect each other's view points. It's ok to disagree, but please be constructive with your criticism!

Part 3: Video Contest (Optional)

Create a short video clip (up to 2 min in length) representing your stakeholder point-of-view about the impacts of natural gas drilling in your town, county, or local watershed. Video clips should be submitted to by March 1st and will be shared on the E-forum website. Videos will be judged by Pennsylvania Sea Grant and the team of moderators, and the winning school will receive a cash prize.