September 14, 2017

Delaware River Basin Commission moves toward fracking ban

WEST TRENTON - The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) adopted a resolution directing the executive director to prepare and publish for public comment by Nov. 30, 2017 a revised set of draft regulations to address natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin.   The vote was 3 to 1 with the federal government voting ‘no’ and New Jersey abstaining. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf supported the resolution. 

“Today, we are acting to protect a watershed that supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people in one of the most densely populated areas of the country,” Wolf said. “I believe this resolution preserves water quality and water supply for the residents of the watershed.”

That drew fire from an area state senator, whose district includes Wayne and Pike counties, which would be included in the drilling ban.

“Across a wide area of northern and southwestern Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling is providing jobs, boosting the prospects of small communities, lowering energy costs, and giving our state an energy advantage in the competition for keeping and bringing in jobs,” said Senator Lisa Baker, R-20.  “State regulations have been stiffened, enforcement strengthened, and impact fees are being collected and distributed to affected communities. There is certainly more to be done, but we have recognized and responded to concerns about environmental impact and community safety.  Given this reality, to assert that drilling is an intolerable threat to water supplies just over the hill is remarkably inconsistent and contradictory.”

The resolution is procedural and initiates a new phase in the rulemaking process.

The revised draft rules to be published on a later date would include prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within the Delaware River Basin. The revised draft regulations would also include provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal or discharge of hydraulic fracturing-related wastewater where permitted and provide for the regulation of inter-basin transfers of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted. According to the proposed resolution, the commissioners are directing that the revised draft rules be issued for public comment no later than Nov. 30.

The public input process on the revised draft regulations will include one or more hearings and ample opportunity for written comments. No action on the revised draft rules will be taken by the commission until the public comment process is completed.

The commissioners will consider changes to the revised draft regulations that may be appropriate based on the comments received.

The DRBC oversees the Delaware River Watershed, in four states: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

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