Public Pressure Leads to Delaware River Fracking Ban

View of river

A collection of states have voted to permanently ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin. This is a wonderful example of what can happen when the public stays involved and keeps applying pressure on its political leaders. The permanent ban on fracking is a wonderful victory after a culmination of efforts to oppose fracking, including the sucessful petition from 2011 to stop the previous vote.

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District




From the Associated Press:

Regulators Take Step to Ban Fracking Near Delaware River

U.S. News | September 13, 2017 | by Michael Rubinkam

NEWTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A commission that oversees drinking water quality for 15 million people took an initial step Wednesday to permanently ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing near the Delaware River and its tributaries, drawing criticism from the natural gas industry as well as from environmental groups worried that regulators would still allow the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater inside the area.

The Delaware River Basin Commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, to begin the lengthy process of enacting a formal ban on drilling and fracking, the technique that’s spurred a U.S. production boom in shale gas and oil. Besides other locales, the watershed supplies Philadelphia and half of New York City with drinking water.

The resolution approved by the commission says that fracking “presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to surface and ground water resources across the country,” and directs the staff to draft regulations to ban it.

Representatives of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, all Democrats, voted for the measure. A representative of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie abstained and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, representing the administration of GOP President Donald Trump, voted “no,” drawing lusty boos from a strongly anti-fracking crowd attending the meeting outside Philadelphia.

“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,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.
Govs. John Carney of Delaware and Andrew Cuomo of New York issued similar statements of support. New York banned horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing statewide in 2015.

Environmentalists were infuriated by provisions they said would allow the industry to draw water from the river and its tributaries for hydraulic fracturing outside the region, and to dispose of fracking wastewater within the Delaware watershed.
“The frackers get our clean water and we get a Superfund site back. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is not a deal that we should be making,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told commissioners.

Steven Tambini, the commission’s executive director, urged critics to withhold judgment until they see the regulations. Draft regulations will be published no later than Nov. 30, with hearings and a public comment period to follow. Tambini anticipated that a final vote could take place next year.

“You don’t know what the rules are going to say yet, so take it easy,” he said.

The ban would apply to two counties in Pennsylvania’s northeastern tip that are part of the nation’s largest gas field, the Marcellus Shale. More than 10,000 Marcellus wells have been drilled in other parts of Pennsylvania since a natural gas boom began nearly 10 years ago, but the industry has been prevented from developing its acreage in the Delaware watershed.

Fracking is a technique that uses huge volumes of pressurized water, along with sand and chemicals, to crack open gas-bearing shale rock deep underground. Its environmental and health impacts remain hotly disputed.

The basin commission, which regulates water quality and quantity in the Delaware and its tributaries, imposed a moratorium on drilling and fracking in 2010 to allow its staff to develop regulations for the gas industry. A year later, the five-member panel was scheduled to vote on a set of draft regulations that would have allowed drilling and fracking to proceed, but it abruptly canceled a vote amid opposition from some commission members.

Business and industry groups blasted Wednesday’s commission vote.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, representing drillers, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry sent a letter to Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asserting that given the volume of drilling elsewhere in Pennsylvania, “it defies both common sense and logic for the DRBC to conclude that natural gas development cannot be done safely within its watershed.”

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Information about previous petition success from Newark Post:

Legislator forwards petition to Delaware River Basin Commissioners opposing fracking

More than 1,100 signatures collected in a matter of days
Newark Post | November 24, 2011

Armed with a petition signed by more than 1,100 people, Newark Rep. John A. Kowalko Jr. urged the Delaware River Basin Commission to oppose hydraulic fracturing of shale in the basin.

Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” would allow the development of natural gas wells across the northern end of the basin. However, it also would pump water and chemicals into the shale to release the natural gas.

Rep. Kowalko, D-Newark, created an online petition and collected more than 1,100 signatures opposing fracking and has forwarded it to the Delaware River Basin Commission. The commission, which is composed of the governors of Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Army Corps of Engineers, was scheduled to vote on the fracking proposal on Monday, but canceled the meeting after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced he would vote “no” on the proposal.

“The people have spoken loudly and clearly. More than 1,100 signatures accumulated in less than a week shows that the public is concerned with protecting the water supply of over 15 million people,” Rep. Kowalko said. “There have been very serious concerns raised about the economic viability of shale-gas drilling and the public health and environmental impacts that would result with slick-water hydraulic fracturing in shale areas bordering the Delaware River Basin.”

Rep. Kowalko said it would be irresponsible to not consider the negative consequences of the fracking process and politically unacceptable to ignore the wishes of the petition signers.
“We can certainly live without this finite amount of gas but our citizens cannot live without clean, drinkable and usable water,” he said.

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