boating620

Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation: A Powerful New Lobby for Pa Outdoors

By On June 20, 2011 12:06 pm


 

boating620 300x225 Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation:  A Powerful New Lobby for Pa Outdoors

Photo by Ed Becker

Sportsman groups come together to help minimize the Marcellus Shale footprint on Pennsyvlania outdoors.

 

The Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation
Interview with Katy Dunlap from Trout Unlimited
TMS—The Marcellus Shale.com

By Ed Becker, Staff Writer—TheMarcellusShale.com

Outdoor sportsmen and women are natural stewards of the environment.  Whether it’s hunting, fishing, or enjoying recreational activities in the rich wilderness offered by Pennsylvania this demographic has a vested interest in the preservation and care of the environment.   It’s not surprising therefore that as a demographic, outdoor sports enthusiasts are especially aware of the Marcellus Shale play and possible impact on natural resources.

Over the last 14 months more than 12 outdoor organizations in more than 3 states have banded together to become a powerful lobby representing the interests of fishing, hunting, trapping, and other groups closely associated with the outdoors.

Called the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation, this group is “dedicated to monitor and propose solutions to mitigate the impacts caused by gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale on hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoor sporting activities.”, as stated in their mission statement.

One of the founding members of the alliance is Katy Dunlap, Eastern Water Project Director for Trout Unlimited, Inc. Dunlap’s responsibilities include developing new or changing existing in stream flow policies throughout the Northeast region, as well as organize TU members and local communities around a host of water management issues including those in the Marcellus Shale region.
She is also currently providing support coordination for The Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation.

In the following interview with TheMarcellusShale.com, Dunlap discusses the successes and challenges of Trout Unlimited.  Moreover, she shares the back-story on how and why the Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation was created to be intimately involved with the natural gas extraction industry and its impact on Pennsylvania’s outdoor.

TMS:
First, tell us about your organization Trout Unlimited (TU) and about yourself.  Share background on some of the jobs that you’ve had which prepared you for the work you do for TU.

Katy Dunlap:
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization with more than 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and other watersheds.

Together, TU staff and members take a comprehensive approach to fulfilling our mission, by working on the ground to improve trout habitat and reconnect rivers and work at the state and federal level to change the laws that govern water resources and fish and wildlife policies.

Before joining TU, I was the Executive Director of the Hudson River Watershed Alliance, a five-state alliance working to build the capacity of local watershed groups to advocate for sound water resource management and policies.   Throughout my career, I have focused on water resource policies and watershed laws in the Northeast and the Northwest, as well as building support among local and regional constituents for increased water resource protections for fish, wildlife and communities.

I received my B.S. in Environmental Science, Policy & Management from the College of Environmental Science & Forestry at Syracuse University in 1993, and earned my Juris Doctor and Masters in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School in 2000.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
Trout Unlimited is dedicated to “To conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.”
Please elaborate a bit more on that mission statement.  Specifically, what does Trout Unlimited do in terms of activities, legislation?

Katy Dunlap:
Trout Unlimited (TU) is made up of 140,000 members and 400 chapters around the country. TU volunteers work on restoration projects and conservation efforts on rivers and streams throughout the country, places where trout and salmon live.

TU has 180 staff working across the U.S. on projects from Maine to Alaska. From fighting the construction of the world’s biggest copper mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, to taking out dams on the Penobscot River so that Atlantic salmon have the opportunity to thrive for the first time in decades, to advocating for fish-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels, TU is working on conservation issues in myriad ways.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
Share some of the success stories that can be directly tied to Trout Unlimited.

Katy Dunlap:
Since its founding in 1959, TU has restored 10,000 miles of rivers and streams around the country.

Each year, TU volunteers donate up to 500,000 hours to clean up polluted rivers, restore habitat and fish populations and teach the next generation about responsible stewardship and good fishing.  To do this work, they rely on help from TU programs like Embrace-A-Stream, which has been making small grants to support chapter projects since 1976. To date, the program has funded more than 900 projects nationwide with more than $3.5 million in cash grants.

Editors Note: (For more information about Trout Unlimited and its many successes please see list below)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
What are some of the major challenges that are on your organization’s agenda?   Where does Trout Unlimited specifically need to focus its efforts?

Katy Dunlap:
With the current climate of funding cuts for restoration projects on the ground, some of TU’s key efforts may be at risk of being scaled down or even put on hold.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Drilling Pine Creek area Custom Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation:  A Powerful New Lobby for Pa Outdoors

Photo provided by Katy Dunlap

TMS:     Discuss about how this particular alliance was created, when it was officially formed, and why the specific organizations that are part of it were involved.
Why did Trout Unlimited join this coalition?

Katy Dunlap:
Trout Unlimited (TU) and a few other sportsmen conservation organizations have been working independently on Marcellus Shale issues for the past few years.  In the summer of 2010, TU began working with the New York-based Theodore Gordon Flyfishers to conduct outreach to sportsmen and women conservation groups who have a presence in the Marcellus Shale states to determine if there was interest in working together to address our mutual concerns.

While there have been many concerns expressed about Marcellus Shale gas development, sportsmen and women have unique interests. By working together, we are much more of a powerful advocate for protection of those interests.  Because this is an issue of regional concern, we initially reached out to national conservation organizations—such as the Izaak Walton League of America, Quality Deer Management Association, and The Wildlife Society—to determine whether or not their members had expressed concern.

We held a conference call in the fall of 2010 with these groups and several other state-based organizations and learned that each of our respective organizations shared similar concerns and positions.

The Alliance supports balanced energy development, but we want to make sure that it is done correctly with the proper environmental safeguards in place.  Since that time, we have been working to identify the impacts to hunting, angling and trapping, and to identify practices that can protect those interests.  We are providing outreach and education to local anglers and hunters, who serve as the eyes and ears on the ground.  Sportsmen and women working together have the ability to change how the industry and agencies are managing Marcellus Shale gas development to make sure that our sporting heritage and our resources are protected.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
Discuss what you see as the benefits of the Marcellus shale play.  How can this natural gas industry help Pennsylvania economically, or through taxes, etc?

Katy Dunlap:
As with any major industrial activity, any economic benefits must be weighed against the environmental consequences—both short and long-term impacts.  Unlike many other states where natural resource extraction is occurring, there is currently not a severance tax in Pennsylvania.

If passed, a severance tax could support additional staff for the conservation agencies charged with protecting and managing water, and the fish population, as well as other wildlife resources, so that we can be sure that monitoring, inspection and enforcement are sufficient to limit or eliminate impacts.

In addition, revenue from a severance tax could fund conservation programs—like Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Fund—which funds organizations and communities to restore or repair the damage that this type of industrial extraction may cause.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

waterfall300 Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation:  A Powerful New Lobby for Pa Outdoors

Photo by Ed Becker

TMS:   Conversely, what do you personally see as the greatest risks, dangers and challenges posed by this growing industry?   What keeps you awake at night—as the saying goes—about the potential fallout, or consequences of natural gas drilling?

Katy Dunlap:
In general, TU is concerned about the pace and scale at which Marcellus Shale development is occurring in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and is projected to occur in other states.  The unique aspects associated with deep horizontal drilling, using high volume hydraulic fracturing, were not fully evaluated before permits were issued and development was allowed to occur.

Industry and development have raced ahead of regulations and states just simply can’t keep up, in terms of making sure the regulations are right,  appropriate permitting and site review practices are in place to prevent harm, and that there are sufficient resources to inspect, monitor and enforce the regulations.

Of particular concern is the lack of cumulative impact analysis to determine how this type of development will affect on our watersheds.  When you multiply the amount of water needed, the volume of wastewater generated, and the total acres cleared for each well site by how many wells will be drilled in a particular watershed, this development could significantly alter the landscape.  At this point, neither the state agencies regulating the industry nor the industry have evaluated the cumulative impacts of the anticipated extensive development.

Obviously, we recognize that every site is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensuring that development occurs without impact, but there are certain practices that can be applied across the board to help reduce the effects on natural resources.   In addition, an environmental review and assessment should be required for each well site, and each well permit should contain site-specific best management practices.  Even then, there are no guarantees but at least there is some aspect of pro-active management and mitigation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
What, if anything, do you see the industry doing right when it comes to expanding natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, particularly with the environment.   Do you see any policy, or actions being done that encourage you that the industry, “gets it” when it comes to addressing the environmental concerns.

Katy Dunlap:
More frequently, the industry is recycling and re-using the wastewater generated at drill sites.  While TU strongly believes that the wastewater management questions should have been asked and answered prior to allowing drilling to occur, we are supportive of the industry’s attempts to improve the technology to meet the challenges posed by drilling wastewater and flowback.  This will reduce the demand for fresh water for hydraulic fracturing and drilling processes and also reduces the amount of wastewater generated overall.
However, there is still a need to find a long-term solution to wastewater treatment and disposal as more wells are developed and more overall wastewater is generated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
So often you will hear someone ask, “Are you for Marcellus Shale or are you against it”.   Do you see it as an either/or situation where you must either be a cheerleader for the energy companies, or an environmental activist who opposes all drilling?  What is the challenge for an organization such as the Sportsman Alliance to endorse both positions?

As stated earlier, the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation supports balanced energy development but we do have concerns about how Marcellus Shale gas development is occurring or is expected to occur in the various states.

There certainly is a place for every voice on this issue—whether pro-drilling, anti-drilling or somewhere in between.  The Sportsmen Alliance has made a decision to take this reasonable approach because if development is going to occur, we want to make sure that it is done correctly.  As such, we are proposing measures and policies that will help to protect fish, wildlife and water, and hunting, angling and trapping interests. Our position allows us to have a voice on the issue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
The Sportsman Alliance has come up with some recommendations for improving practices for Marcellus Shale development.  Let’s take a look at some of those recommendations and please comment on them in a bit more detail.

Gas Drilling industry exemptions under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act should be repealed.
Please give more information on the specific exemptions and why they are bad policy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Katy Dunlap:
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted the practice of hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), and in essence redefined underground injection of oil and gas operations to eliminate EPA’s ability to regulate threats to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing, unless diesel fuel additives were used.    This same act amended the Clean Water Act (CWA) to remove sediment from the list of pollutants.

The process of hydraulic fracturing uses chemicals, sand and water to create fractures in the shale and release the gas.   And we know that gas drilling is occurring in previously unchartered areas, resulting in new construction of roads and increased sedimentation.   Both the SDWA and CWA were designed to protect water resources for people and for fish, and the exemptions for the oil and gas industry compromises those goals and ultimately unnecessarily threatens water resources.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS: “Best management practices for storm water management should be employed well operators should be required to prove that such practices are functioning prior to drilling.”
Please go into some more detail why this is a critical recommendation.

Katy Dunlap:
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires a drilling company to submit an erosion and sediment control plan as part of the well permit application.  While these plans look good on paper, the practices included in the plan are often not installed correctly and not enforced, due in large part to a lack of staff resources.   Vigilant monitoring of storm water management practices is required to ensure that the appropriate mechanism has been installed and that the practice is achieving its goal of limiting erosion and sedimentation.

Sedimentation can impair water quality and dramatically alter trout spawning success by burying eggs and smothering aquatic insects on which trout feed.  Given the number of well pads being developed and the network of new roads that are being constructed to support gas drilling, and managing storm water runoff is critical to minimizing environmental impact.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

deerforweb 300x169 Sportsman Alliance for Marcellus Conservation:  A Powerful New Lobby for Pa Outdoors

Photo by Ed Becker

TMS:
“High fencing and/or netting should be required around wastewater storage impoundments and well pads.”
Please describe some of the dangers to wildlife connected with this recommendation.  Why does this need to be done/enforced.

Katy Dunlap:
Wildlife knows no bounds. Without appropriate deterrents, game and non-game species can be exposed to chemicals and other contaminants used in the drilling process.   Additionally, many animals—such as deer and turkey—are attracted to saline water and open soil, both of which are associated with gas drilling practices.   By placing high fencing around the site, companies can keep wildlife from ingesting potentially contaminated soils or wastewater.   Netting over a wastewater pond will help deter birds from consuming wastewater.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
Hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts are essentially on the front line of seeing potential damage to the natural environment.   How best can these particular people be the “eyes and ears” to possible issues caused by natural gas drilling in these rural areas?
How do you encourage the sportsperson to be aware of problems, and how to get the attention of authorities?

Katy Dunlap:
Sportsmen and women know their woods and know when something is awry.   In order to understand impacts,  specific to Marcellus Shale development, education and training is needed.  The Sportsmen Alliance has identified a number of key concerns specific to hunting, fishing, trapping and other outdoors experiences, and is providing this information to local sportsmen and women.

In early June, we held the Sportsmen Marcellus Shale Summit at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown and approximately 100 sportsmen and women attended.  We have created a website that is updated regularly with information about how Marcellus Shale development may affect sportsmen and women.

A number of Sportsmen Alliance members, including Trout Unlimited, have created water resource monitoring programs and visual assessment tools that will help sportsmen and women understand changes that they may see in the woods as a result of Marcellus Shale development.   In these programs, sportsmen and women are given information to contact the appropriate state or local agency if a problem is identified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
Share any story or specific experience that illustrated to you how hunting, fishing, etc. have been directly impacted by the natural gas industry.   What needs to be done to correct such situations?

Katy Dunlap:
Much of the Marcellus Shale gas development is occurring on public lands.  Each time a well pad is developed and drilling is initiated, the noise levels light pollution and extensive heavy truck traffic that may not have previously existed in that area will now impact areas that many have traditionally hunted or fished.   Some companies have voluntarily halted drilling on opening days of certain hunting and fishing seasons.

The Sportsmen Alliance would like to see state agencies prohibit drilling operations, including truck traffic on state lands during opening days of hunting, fishing and trapping seasons, and minimized during key breeding seasons.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TMS:
How often does the Sportsman Alliance get together?  How many members and different groups belong?
Age, gender, background of the members who comprise the organization?

The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation is a broad coalition of hunters, anglers, trappers and other outdoor enthusiasts, including sportsmen and women of all ages and demographics.  Currently, there are 12 conservation organizations as members, collectively representing 60,000 members in the Marcellus Shale region.