Ohio River

Rob IretonShould frackers be allowed to suck millions of gallons a day from the Ohio River?

Antero Resources, a major Marcellus Shale driller, needs so much water for its fracking operations that it hauls truckloads from the Ohio River to its wells in West Virginia and Ohio. To cut down on transportation costs, the company now wants to build an 80-mile water pipeline.

The Wall Street Journal describes the project as a “costly wager that the hydraulic-fracturing industry’s thirst for reliable sources of water will grow” — and reports that enviros are worried about the swelling stresses that the industry is placing on the Ohio River, which is the Mississippi River’s largest tributary:

Tapping the Ohio would give the pipeline access to the region’s most dependable source of water. Many of the rivers and streams that Antero now uses run low in the summer, prompting state officials to stop gas-industry withdrawals. A drought in Ohio last year curtailed water to fracking operations.

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In a permit filed with the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates water withdrawals from the Ohio River, Antero said it plans to build an intake pipe capable of sucking up 3,360 gallons of river water a minute—or about 4.8 million gallons a day. …

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Some environmental groups are concerned by the scope of the project. “There is a whole lot of water in the Ohio River, but not if we start withdrawing millions of gallons of water a day,” says Janet Keating, executive director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

A growing number of pipelines are supplying water to fracking wells—though few of them have been anywhere near as expensive.

At least this pipeline won’t explode in a burst of oil or flaming gas. But it highlights one more way that fracking messes with the environment.