Governors of New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania have approved a resolution to issue draft regulations to permanently ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin. Environmentalists and the natural gas industry criticized the resolution, for different reasons.
The Delaware River Basin Commission Thursday adopted a resolution at its quarterly business meeting directing the executive director to prepare and publish by November 30 a revised set of draft regulations for public comment to ban hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin. Commission members New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Delaware Governor John Carney and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf voted in favor of the resolution. New Jersey abstained and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division opposed the resolution. Environmentalists turned out in force at the meeting, including Catskill Mountainkeeper Associate Director Wes Gillingham.
“I’m pleased with New York’s stance on this. I’m also very pleased to open up addressing a ban,” says Gillingham. “I have big concerns about the way the resolution was written, and we really need the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban the entire process of hydrofracking, not just the drilling part.”
Plus, he says:
“So we all have to be diligent to make sure that’s what we get and not just the ban on drilling in the basin but also to a ban on the wastewater being imported into the area, gas storage and inter-basin transfers of water out for hydrofracking. That’s really important here. And those weren’t included in the resolution,” Gillingham says. “So that’s why yesterday there was 130 some folks coming there to speak out against the resolution as written, wanting for a categorical ban on hydrofracking and drilling in the Delaware Basin.”
The Delaware River Basin Commission says revised draft regulations will include provisions to ensure the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal or discharge of fracking-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.
A White House spokesperson says, “The President is committed to ushering in a new era of American energy dominance that will create more jobs, higher wages, and lower energy prices. The Administration is disappointed with the Delaware River Basin Commission’s resolution to move forward with proposed regulations to ban hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a demonstrated technology that has been safely used nationwide, and to see its economic and employment related benefits, look no further than Pennsylvania – the state is now the second-largest natural gas producer in the country, and has created thousands of jobs. It is our hope that the DRBC will change course and support energy security, economic growth, and job creation.”
The Delaware River Basin, which drains from portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people, including half of New York City.
In written comments from API Pennsylvania, a division of national trade association American Petroleum Institute, API-PA Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman says the Marcellus Shale is a proven opportunity to harness clean and abundant American energy to power Pennsylvania and support jobs. She calls the proposal misguided, ignoring consumer demand, economic benefits and Pennsylvania’s existing environmental protections.
The Delaware River Basin Commission notes the Marcellus Shale formation underlies about 36 percent of the basin and is the focus of much drilling interest. Again, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Gillingham.
“This is the longest free-flowing river in the U.S., has multiple intact ecosystems up and down the basin and a lot of concerned communities,” Gillingham says. “So this is not just a New York state or New Jersey issue; it’s a national issue.”
The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the more than 13,500 square-mile Delaware River Basin.