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Environmentalists want feds to study gas drilling's effect on bay

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A coalition of environmental organizations today called on the federal government to increase its scrutiny of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Led by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the coalition filed a legal petition under the National Environmental Policy Act calling for an analysis of drilling's impact on the Chesapeake Bay watershed, followed by appropriate regulatory action. It also sent a letter advocating action, signed by more than 120 businesses, organizations and individuals based in the watershed's six states, to President Barack Obama.

While the foundation believes shale gas can be extracted without harming the environment, rapid proliferation of wells in Pennsylvania and upstate New York is having an impact that "we feel is not being adequately measured or addressed," said Matt Earhart, executive director of the foundation's Pennsylvania chapter.

The hydraulic fracturing technique employed to drill Marcellus Shale wells uses millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to free natural gas from shale formations thousands of feet underground. Critics say drilling activity causes erosion, air pollution and water contamination if not properly managed.

Besides the foundation, the other petition signatories were:

  • The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
  • The Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.
  • Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.
  • The Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
  • The National Parks Conservation Association.
  • The Shenandoah Valley Network.

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