A Teacher’s 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 Marcellus Shale experts, your students will 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. We suggest that you allocate two or three class periods for student-driven investigations of the Background Readings. At the bottom of each sections, you’ll find a list of additional background resources. These are not required readings, but students may want to use them to follow-up on an issue they would like to research in-depth. Note: It is important that the students read a variety of materials, from a diversity of viewpoints, as they study the issue.

A pre/post-test can be viewed here and or by downloading the document. Please administer the pre-test before students begin their research (Part 1) and the post-test following the stakeholder point-of-view discussion (Part 2). The pre-test and post-test are exactly the same test and will be used by Pennsylvania Sea Grant to compare changes in the students attitudes and knowledge about the aquatic impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling following their participation in the E-forum.

For more information on how these activities align with Pennsylvania's Academic Standards that can be viewed here (opens a separate tab).

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:

Divide your class into 4 or 6 groups (3 or 4 students, each). You have the choice to either assign each group to one of the interest groups or organizations represented on the list below, or have each group of students pick which organization they’d like to represent. Each group of students should create a unique nickname to represent their interest group or organization, i.e. “Anglers R Us” for Anglers, boaters, and recreational users.

  • Anglers, boaters, and recreational users
  • Conservation organizationss
  • Environmental agency employee
  • Government officials (local or state)
  • Landowners
  • Local businesses
  • Natural gas industry
  • Other?

Each group of students will write a one page (250-500 word) paper discussing their point-of-view (a “Stakeholder”such as a landowner, business owner, DEP employee, etc.) on whether Cobalt Gas Company should be given a permit for well drilling at this specific site using: 1) the information learned in the background reading and videos and 2) new information about the watershed from the resources listed below. Some additional resources specific to each interest group – there are seven – or organization can be found here. Please ask the students to include facts and references from their readings to justify their points-of-view.

After the point-of-view papers are completed, students will 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” page. Student papers should be submitted to the Shale Talk E-forum during the week of February 4-8, 2013. Classes participating in the E-forum will have a 2 week period to read and discuss the papers. Moderators from industry and other organizations will help referee the questions and comments posted by the students. The moderated portion of the forum will conclude February 22.

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

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 afaulds@psu.edu 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.