Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DRBC hears from NY & NJ on impending fracking rules

Upper Delaware River 2

The Delaware River Basin Commission is preparing to propose (but not today)  rules governing the use of hydrofracturing (fracking) to extract natural gas from sections of the Marcellus Shale within in the Delaware River watershed in New York and Pennsylvania.

There was a belief in some circles that the DRBC would formally propose the rules today, but this is not the case, according to the commission’s Communications Manager, Clarke Rupert who advises:

“The proposed natural gas development regulations have not even been published as of now.  Following publishing of the draft regulations, there will be a written comment period and most likely three public hearings on the proposed rulemaking.  The written comments received during the comment period and oral testimony presented at the hearings will become part of the rulemaking record and be considered by the commissioners prior to any action on the proposed regulations.  Such action will be taken at duly noticed public meeting of the commission at a future date BUT NOT TODAY. “  

Leading to speculation that the commission would act at its meeting today in West Trenton, NJ, were letters sent earlier this week from officials in New York and New Jersey.

New York’s Governor David A. Paterson, in a letter sent on Monday, urged the DRBC
to suspend any rulemaking until New York has completed its own review of the drilling technique.

“DRBC appears intent on going forward with a regulatory program that would not have the advantage of the full investigations and public deliberations taking place in New York, “ Paterson wrote. “Your proposed program, covering only a very small portion of New York State, could well conflict with the technical and regulatory protocols ultimately adopted in New York, causing confusion, duplication, redundant regulatory fee assessments, differing regulations in different locations and possible mismanagement.

“It would make far more sense,” Paterson wrote, “for DRBC to participate in the New York process and assist in making the program as effective as possible, certainly before undertaking unilateral action.” 

In a December 7 letter, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin urged the DRBC “to enact and implement strict (fracking)standards to protect the river - which provides a quarter of New Jersey's drinking water”
until Pennsylvania and New York adopt their own regulations.

"New Jersey continues to oppose any drilling of fracking wells in the Delaware River Basin until appropriate regulations and standards are in place," Martin wrote to DRBC Executive Director Carol Collier. "Strong safeguards to protect public water supplies and ensure that the wastes generated are properly managed and treated must be established before drilling. We reiterate that without those safeguards, drilling in the Marcellus Shale is unacceptable to New Jersey.”

While no drilling would occur in New Jersey, Martin expressed concern that expansion of drilling in New York and Pennsylvania could have significant impacts on the Delaware River. As many as 10,000 wells could be drilled in portions of the basin in those states, requiring large withdrawals of water from the Delaware and possibly risking contamination of its tributaries.

The DRBC is a multi-state commission that has regulatory jurisdiction over the Delaware River watershed. Its earlier imposed freeze on natural gas drilling permits has kept wells from being drilled in Pennsylvania’s northeast. Most drilling activity has been taking place in the southwest corner of the state. 

The environmental coalition, Protecting Our Waters, urged its members to write to the DRBC and to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell asking that the current permit freeze be extended.

”We are insisting not only on a cumulative impact study first, but on a full democratic process, fully informed by adequate science, which would require declaring the Delaware River watershed off-limits for fracking for three to five years,” the group said yesterday on its website.

See our Enviro-Events Calendar for a copy of the DRBC’s agenda for today’s meeting.

What’s your take on the issue?  Should the DRBC delay adoption of its fracking rules until
New York and Pennsylvania have their own rules in place?  Should all new fracking be stopped until the EPA concludes its review of the drilling technique and imposes a national standard?  Or is the extraction of natural gas too important to be delayed? Can we count
on the natural gas industry to regulate itself and protect the environment? Let us know in the comment box below.  If you don’t see one, click on the tiny ‘comments’ line.

Like this post? You'll love our daily newsletter, EnviroPolitics
Try it free for 30 days!
No obligation. Cancel anytime with a single click

Subscribe here to view all our YouTube videos

Repost this article