Public hearings on fracking

REGION — Eight years after the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) imposed a de facto ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware Watershed, the DRBC is holding a series of public hearings on adopting new regulations covering fracking; the regulations would make the ban permanent, but they would also allow for the withdrawal of water for drilling projects and the storage and/or disposal of frack waste-water in the basin, albeit with strict regulations.

At one of two public hearings in Waymart, PA on January 23, about 100 people showed up; 30 of them spoke in opposition to a ban and 59 spoke in favor of it. A couple of people opposed to the ban pointed out that those in the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin profited from gas leases, and property owners in Wayne County should also be able to.

The environmentalists who support the ban have expressed reservations about the regulations because of the water-withdrawal and wastewater disposal provisions.

At the hearing in Philadelphia on January 25, Maya van Rossum said, “No one is safe from the harmful impacts of drilling and fracking for gas in shale. It doesn’t matter where you live; if we allow this dangerous industry to advance in our watershed, or to support its advancement elsewhere, we are dooming present and future generations to the devastating impacts of this dirty fossil fuel industry. That is why we are here today, to support the ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, but also to oppose the proposal that our watershed be the repository for frack wastewater, or the source of water for fracking that happens outside of our watershed.”

Clarke Rupert, a spokesman for the DRBC, has made the point in various news outlets that proposed regulations would make it very difficult for drillers to take water from the watershed or dispose of fracking waste in the basin.

He said any amount of water exported for purposes of fracking would spark a DRBC review instead of the 100,000 gallons per day required to spark a review of other types of projects. He said the same applied to any amount of frack wastewater that drillers might want to import into the basin.

Still, that’s not good enough for some people such as Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. He said, “It’s good that the DRBC is calling for a ban, but we need a complete ban of fracking activities, including not allowing [the] dumping [of] fracking waste or taking water for fracking activities elsewhere. We must protect the drinking water for 17 million people. Dumping fracking wastewater is dangerous because it contains over 600 different toxic chemicals, many of them carcinogenic. This could lead to pollution and contaminated drinking water, especially for downstream communities. [New Jersey] Gov. [Phil] Murphy has called for a full fracking ban, and we will work with his administration to make sure it happens.”


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