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Susquehanna River Basin Commission Hears Public Comment on Water Withdrawal Permits

The agency that vets applications from energy companies to pull water from the Susquehanna River Basin is hearing public comment on its next steps.

Environmental advocates and anti-drilling activists are asking the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to reject the latest requests from natural gas drilling companies to siphon water for hydrofracking purposes, or at least delay approving those applications until the SRBC has revised its overall water usage guidelines.

Commissioner Herb Sachs, who represents Maryland on the SRBC, said the panel updates a broad plan for water use every five years.

"When we did the last one, the Marcellus Shale drilling was just beginning to get started," he said.

The next update is due by the end of 2013. In that time, the SRBC is planning three studies of shale gas development.

Some groups have asked the commission to delay issuing any water withdrawal permits until the comprehensive plan is revised based on the latest data about both the river basin and the oil and gas industry. Sachs said it doesn't seem likely.

"As long as we see that water can be withdrawn without causing a detrimental effect downstream of that, we would not just all of a sudden, stop everything," he said.