Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Delaware River group sets Nov 21 vote on fracking rules

After sorting through some 69,000 comments on draft rules published last December, the Delaware River Basin Commission is set to vote Nov. 21 on a final set of rules governing natural gas drilling in northeast Pennsylvania.

The rules are designed to allow gas drillers to use the controversial hydrofracturing (or fracking) technique to extract natural gas from a deep rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, while protecting water quality in the Delaware River and its tributaries.

The commission, which oversees the water supply for Philadelphia and half the population of New York City, has imposed a moratorium on all Marcellus Shale drilling projects in the four-state basin until the rule-making process is complete.

The Associated Press reported tonight that, once the moratorium is lifted and drilling begins — perhaps early next year — the gas industry would be limited to 300 wells until the DRBC votes to allow additional drilling. The agency also said it would study the effectiveness of its new rules after 18 months and make adjustments as necessary.

Drilling industry cautious - New York Attorney General opposed

The drilling industry and a pro-drilling landowners group reacted cautiously to the draft regulations, while New York's attorney general and environmental groups that oppose any drilling in the watershed attacked the rules as inadequate.

"By issuing these modified draft regulations, the federal government continues to ignore New Yorkers' concerns about the impact fracking may have on our environment, health and homes," said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who has filed a federal lawsuit meant to halt drilling in the basin at least until a cumulative environmental impact study is performed.

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum, whose organization has filed a similar lawsuit, said she doesn't believe drilling can be conducted safely.

The Commission has decided that there will be no public comment period on the revised draft regulations. They can be found, with related information, on the DRBC website at

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