Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
On March 30, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) closed its four-month public comment period on proposed regulations of fracking and fracking-related activities. The DRBC received 227 oral comments over six public hearings, and over 8,600 written comments, which includes petitions in favor of the proposed ban signed by tens of thousands of individuals.
PennFuture’s comments to the DRBC strongly supported the proposed prohibition on fracking within the Basin, and called on the DRBC to strengthen its proposed regulations on both water withdrawals for fracking outside of the Basin and the transport, storage, treatment, and disposal of fracking wastewater within the Basin. If those regulations cannot be strengthened in order to protect the Delaware River water resources, then the DRBC must not allow these activities to occur. Like PennFuture, it appears that a good number of commenters supported the fracking ban, yet called for stronger regulations of those fracking-related activities to protect our waters.
The majority of the public comments received called for a full ban on all fracking-related activities, including water withdrawals and wastewater treatment. However, there was a large contingent of comments that opposed the proposed ban on fracking, lead primarily by gas industry interests. All written comments received by the DRBC are available for review and download through the DRBC’s website.
The DRBC has no set deadline by which they must make their final decisions to adopt, modify, or reject the proposed fracking regulations. This final decision, however, is likely to take several months, if not longer. The DRBC must not only review each comment in their decision-making process, but must also draft a written comment response document that responds to each type of comment (not each individual comment) submitted. During its review of the comments, DRBC will likely consult with experts and may even possibly conduct additional research.
The DRBC’s responses and recommendations will then be submitted to the five Commissioners for a vote. Assuming no changes to the proposed regulations, it seems likely that the regulations will be adopted by the Commissioners, who include the governors of the four Basin states and a representative of the U.S. government. The governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York had previously voted to propose the regulations, and the new governor of New Jersey has expressed his support for the fracking ban, making a 4-1 vote in favor of adopting the proposed regulations the most likely outcome.
What this all seems to foreshadow is that, regardless of what the DRBC’s final adopted regulations do, there will be legal challenges. If the DRBC adopts the regulations as proposed, it’s likely that they will receive challenges from both sides of the aisle – environmentalists and anti-fracking supporters arguing the regulations didn’t go far enough to protect the Delaware River water resources and industry, and pro-fracking supporters arguing that the regulations go too far.
During the pendency of any legal challenges to the DRBC’s final regulations regarding fracking in the Basin, the “de facto moratorium” on fracking that has been in place since 2010 will most likely continue, thereby protecting the Delaware River Basin while the issue makes its way through the courts.
In the end, PennFuture is confident that fracking will not be allowed to jeopardize our water, environment, and health within the Delaware River Basin. PennFuture remains committed to protecting the Delaware River Basin and will keep you updated as this matter moves forward. Please click here to subscribe to our emails for regular updates on this issue.