UPPER DELAWARE REGION — While fracking advocates continue to take aim at the Delaware River Basin Commision (DRBC) ban on fracking in the region, the DRBC has come under fire from fracking …
UPPER DELAWARE REGION — While fracking advocates continue to take aim at the Delaware River Basin Commision (DRBC) ban on fracking in the region, the DRBC has come under fire from fracking opponents for a set of supplementary rulings to that ban which conditionally allow the export of water from the basin for fracking and the import into the basin of fracking wastewater.
The latest shot in that exchange was sent on April 11, with the Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition sending the DRBC’s commissioners a letter alleging that the body miscounted the number of comments submitted during the public comment period on the ruling.
The DRBC has a stated tally of 2,461 comment submissions received during the public comment period, with 2,388 written submissions and 73 oral submissions given at public hearings. It notes on its website that, “in most cases, each single submission represents single comments, each of which will be categorized and considered by the Commission’s review team.”
In the coalition’s view, grouping individual comments by submissions grossly understates the amount of support for a full frack ban in the region. The coalition counts at least 11,593 comments submitted by environmental organizations and members of the public, with a number of submissions from environmental groups containing multiple comments from members of the public.
“By counting thousands of individual comments submitted by members of an organization as a single comment, the volume of comments calling for a full ban on fracking activities in the Delaware River Watershed is not being accurately reported,” reads the letter. “This serves to diminish the widespread support across the region, and the country, for a full ban.”
The dispute over the ruling stems from an initial oversight in the DRBC’s ban of fracking.
The DRBC initially banned fracking in the Delaware River region in February of 2021. In doing so, it left for a later ruling the question of whether to allow the export of water from the basin to be used in fracking or the import of fracking wastewater from outside the region.
The draft regulations that the DRBC published in October of that year did not constitute an outright ban on either activity. Pre-existing language “discouraging” the import or export of water became language “discouraging, limiting or placing conditions” on such activity. While the regulations ban the discharge of fracking wastewater into the waters and lands of the Delaware River Basin, they don’t ban in the import of wastewater under other conditions.
Advocacy groups have argued since the rulings were released that they do not go far enough. They have argued as well that the public comment process did not allow the public enough space to express its opposition to the rulings.
The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition suggested a wide variety of improvements throughout the DRBC’s public comment period. It asked for an extended comment period, additional public hearings, additional avenues for submitting written comments and access to the process for Spanish-speaking residents of the basin.
The DRBC did not respond to all of the coalition’s requests: for example, the DRBC did not provide an email address for written submissions. The DRBC did respond to many of them, extending the public comment period by 90 days, adding a public hearing with Spanish-language accessability and allowing submissions of written comments by mail.
The coalition is hopeful that the DRBC will respond to its requests to consider the full number of comments they say was received through that process. It is hopeful as well that the sentiments contained within those comments will be heard. “We look forward to the adoption of a final rulemaking that enacts a full ban on fracking activities,” reads its letter of April 11.
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