PennFuture Blog

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What You Need to Know in Advance of the Issuance of DRBCís Fracking Regulations

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has directed its staff to issue regulations regarding unconventional natural gas extraction activities, namely, the horizontal, hydraulic fracturing method, also known as fracking, within the Delaware River watershed. Those draft regulations are to be issued no later than this Thursday, Nov. 30.

This blog post is intended to provide you with background information and to prepare you for the upcoming public commenting period. We want everyone to be engaged to protect the Delaware River from the environmental and human health risks posed by fracking.

Brief History of DRBC’s Regulation of Fracking
We recently wrote about how the DRBC’s long-standing moratorium on fracking is critical to protecting the Basin’s resources. In that blog, we briefly discussed why the DRBC was formed and what it does to protect the Delaware River. We also explained how the 7-year “de facto” moratorium came to pass. We concluded by pointing out that DRBC had identified specific and serious concerns about the risk of harm posed by unconventional natural gas development in the Basin, and has held off on allowing such risky extraction unless and until it can ensure the protection of the water resources of Basin. Considering the precious nature of the Basin’s resources, and the possible long-term impact that natural gas development can have on water resources, PennFuture supports a permanent ban on fracking in the Basin.   

What to Expect
The DRBC will draft regulations prohibiting the production of natural gas via fracking within the Basin, but will allow other fracking-related activities to occur within the watershed. In particular, the DRBC will allow both (1) the storage, treatment, disposal, and/or discharge of fracking wastewater within the Basin, and (2) the transfer of Delaware River water outside of the Basin for use in fracking. Both of these activities have the very real possibility of impacting both the water quality and water quantity of the Delaware River, and these are the regulations that PennFuture is most concerned about.  

When the draft regulations come out, we expect an in-depth review of the regulations regarding fracking wastewater and inter-basin water transfers will be needed. Based on our 2010 review of the then-draft DRBC regulations, we anticipate that the regulations will not be strong enough to sufficiently protect the critical headwaters and wetlands of the Delaware River.  

At this point, it is unclear how long the public comment period will be, but PennFuture expects it to be at least several months, since DRBC has indicated its intent to hold several public hearings throughout the Basin. 

What You Can Do
As we review the draft regulations and the public comment process moves forward, PennFuture will be providing you with information and ways to get involved to protect the Delaware River Basin. 

In addition, please consider supporting PennFuture’s efforts to protect the sensitive, high-quality headwaters of the Delaware River Basin. 

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