PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

DRBC Proposed Regulations Ban Discharge of Fracking Wastewater, Discourages Fracking-Related Interbasin Water Transfers

Earlier this year, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) released final regulations that banned fracking in the watershed, citing decades of scientific and technical studies, reports, and findings. This is a monumental step in the protection of our waters and health throughout the Delaware basin. Although litigation on DRBC’s fracking ban is ongoing, PennFuture remains confident that these strong and necessary protections will withstand any legal challenge. 

At the time the fracking ban was announced, the DRBC also rescinded its previous draft regulations regarding fracking wastewater and interbasin water transfers. In our 2018 comments on the original draft regulations, PennFuture said that if these regulations couldn’t be strengthened to ensure that the water resources of the basin would be protected, then DRBC has a duty to ban these activities within the watershed. 

Well, it appears that the DRBC was listening as these new proposed regulations prohibit the discharge of fracking wastewater, including co-products and byproducts, within the Delaware River watershed, whether on land or directly into the water. This ban includes the use of fracked wastewater “brine” spreading on dirt and gravel roads. 

This is critical for the health of the waters, wildlife, ecosystems, and humans since fracked wastewater contains thousands of chemicals, many of which we don’t even know about and some that can be harmful, toxic, or even radioactive. This is also especially important for the upper Delaware basin where approximately 80% of the commonwealth’s Exceptional Value waters and wetlands are located. A recent study by Penn State University found that road spreading of oil and gas drilling wastewater is significantly less effective than commercial alternatives and increases the potential harm to aquatic systems, human health, and agriculture. 

In addition, the new draft regulations continue the DRBC’s position to “discourage” importation and exportation of waters to and from the basin (e.g., interbasin water transfers), and set out specific criteria that must be met in each case to be allowed by the DRBC. 

PennFuture is still reviewing these draft regulations, but at first glance it appears that the DRBC is taking seriously its authority – and duty – to protect the Delaware watershed from the inherent harms of fracking. We will be submitting written comments and participating in the proposed public hearings on these proposed regulations, and we encourage all of you to do the same. 

The DRBC is seeking comments on the effects the proposed rules may have within the Delaware River Basin on the following:

  • water availability;
  • the control and abatement of water pollution;
  • economic development;
  • the conservation and protection of drinking water supplies;
  • the conservation and protection of aquatic life;
  • the conservation and protection of water quality in Special Protection Waters; and
  • the protection, maintenance and improvement of water quantity and quality basinwide.

The DRBC will also consider any other comments that concern the potential effects of the draft rules on the conservation, utilization, development, management and control of the water and related resources of the basin.

Written comments are due to the DRBC by 5:00pm on Friday, January 28, 2022, and must be submitted via the DRBC’s online public comment collection system. More information and details on submission may be found at the DRBC’s website.

Virtual public hearings will be held on the following Wednesdays in December:  

  • December 8, 2021, 2:30-4:30pm
  • December 8, 2021, 6:30-8:30pm
  • December 15, 2021, 1:00-3:00pm
  • December 15, 2021, 4:00-6:00pm

Please visit the DRBC’s website for more information and to register to speak. 

We couldn’t do any of this without your support! Please consider becoming a PennFuture member today.

Get the Latest onOur PennFuture

Sign up for email updates on the latest news, events, and opportunities to make a difference.

Sign Up