DRBC fracking vote coming Feb.25

| February 18, 2021

Looking over Wes Gillingham's shoulder (he's the associate director of Catskill Mountainkeeper) at the long list (104,805) of signers of the petition to ban fracking on one of many presentations to the DRBC by a host of environmental groups opposing fracking. Holding the other end is Rob Friedman, from the Natural Resources Defense Council. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE
Looking over Wes Gillingham's shoulder (he's the associate director of Catskill Mountainkeeper) at the long list (104,805) of signers of the petition to ban fracking on one of many presentations to the DRBC by a host of environmental groups opposing fracking. Holding the other end is Rob Friedman, from the Natural Resources Defense Council. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

Years in the making, it looks like the Delaware River Basin Commission will finally be taking a vote on fracking in the watershed.

A special (virtual) public business meeting has been set for Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at 10:30 a.m.

The commission has five members: the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware (though the governors are rarely at these meetings) and the representatives of the federal government, the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

In typically terse fashion, this is how the DRBC announced the meeting:

At this meeting, the Commissioners will consider final action on DRBC’s Proposed Amendments to the Administrative Manual and Special Regulations Regarding Hydraulic Fracturing Activities; Additional Clarifying Amendments (“Draft Rule”), published for public comment on November 30, 2017. The public comment period closed on March 30, 2018.

The meeting is open to the public, and will be held remotely via Zoom Webinar, as well as live streamed on YouTube.

There are three major provisions:

  • The prohibition of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in such formations;
  • Provisions related to water use for hydraulic fracturing; and
  • Provisions related to the management of produced water from hydraulic fracturing.

The first item is fairly clear, in substance: no fracking in the Delaware River watershed. The watershed’s western border reaches into the edge of the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, where fracking has been going on since 2005. More info about Marcellus shale and fracking here.

So the first item is pretty clear, and has opponents of fracking loudly enthusiastic. Full comments from the various groups that have been steadfast in their opposition to fracking are below this story.

The other two, summarized in this announcement by the DRBC but further explained by them previously:

The second calls for “provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal and/or discharge of wastewater within the Basin associated with (fracking) where permitted.”

The third calls for “regulation of inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purpose of (fracking) where permitted.”

In a nutshell, the first bans fracking in the watershed but the other two discuss safe-water use for fracking or related activities, and does seem to step on the toes of the first.

There’s so much that has been said since this proposed rule-making back in 2017, so here are some links to give you lots of background in case you’ve gotten fuzzy on the details.

The DRBC’s resolution for development of new fracking rules here.

Lots of background also here in the listing created for the Federal Register.

Here’s Delaware Currents story from September 2017 when the DRBC announced that it wanted its staff to develop new rules about fracking.

Here’s details on how to attend the special meeting virtually — DRBC has been holding all its meetings virtually because of the Covid pandemic.

As promised, that roundup of comments from the environmental activists who have been frequent attendees at DRBC meetings to push their anti-fracking case:

“The Governors of the Delaware River Watershed have promised the people protection from the ravages of fracking. President Biden has promised the people of our nation a changed way of doing business; one that honors environmental protection and justice over the greed and power of industry. It’s time that they fulfill their promises. All eyes from across our watershed and the generations that will be impacted by the decision DRBC makes on fracking, will be tuning in on February 25th to bear witness to the actions taken by Governor Murphy, Governor Cuomo, Governor Carney, Governor Wolf and President Biden as the designated Commissioners. We are hopeful they will go down in history as the leaders who helped save our communities, environment, and economy from fracking devastation. We will be ready to hold them to account if they betray us,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“The DRBC is finally going to vote on banning fracking in the Delaware River Basin. It is long overdue. Now we need to make sure that they vote for a full ban including banning fracking waste and taking water out of the Basin. This is critical for the future of the Basin and to protect the drinking water for 15 million people,”said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Governor Murphy came out for a full ban 4 years ago, and he signed a letter to DRBC supported by Governors Carney and Wolf in 2018 supporting a full ban. Now they need to keep their word. We cannot have a partial ban that actually allows the dumping of fracking waste that still puts the drinking water and environment of the Basin at risk. The DRBC needs to stand up for the Basin and ban fracking and fracking waste.”

“For more than a decade we have provided Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) with the scientific evidence of threats to our health, the impacts to the ecology of the river and the region, and the threat of impacting the drinking water for millions of people. During the public comment period at least 40,000 comments to the DRBC were in support of a full ban on fracking and all drilling-related activities, including wastewater treatment and water withdrawals. This better be the moment in history where the agency listens to the people and the science and makes the right choice for the future of the basin,” said Wes Gillingham, Associate Director, Catskill Mountainkeeper.

“We hope and trust that Governor Carney will keep his promise to vote for a complete ban of ALL fracking activities in the Delaware River Basin. Delaware gains no benefits from such activities, but is at risk for grave damage to the Delaware Estuary and Bay from toxic pollution if fracking wastes are allowed to enter our watershed,” said Coralie Pryde, League of Women Voters Delaware.

“A majority of the Delaware River Basin Commission member states is already on record supporting a complete and total ban on fracking throughout the Delaware River Watershed. Now is the time to get it done. Banning fracking, including the importation of toxic frack wastewater into the Basin and the exportation of water for fracking outside the Basin, is past due to protect the region’s water resources for drinking, recreation, economic prosperity, healthy ecosystems, and to combat the climate crisis,” said Eric Benson, NJ Campaign Director, Clean Water Action. 

“New York’s drinking water is at risk from fracking in the Delaware River Basin, and our climate is threatened by the dangerous drilling practice. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to help finish the job and support a complete ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin,” said Eric Weltman, a New York-based senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “This means a permanent ban on drilling, fracking waste, and water withdrawals for fracking. Anything less recklessly endangers our health, communities, and environment.”

“This vote to ban fracking is a long time coming for the Delaware River watershed and the 15 million people that depend on its drinking water. For more than a decade, the public has been demanding for DRBC to act to full ban all fracking activities in the watershed. Gov. Murphy campaigned on banning all fracking in the Delaware watershed four years ago and two years ago formally asked for the DRBC to strengthen its proposed regulations to include a full ban on fracking activities in the watershed. The evidence on the danger of fracking to our water supplies has only gotten stronger, and we need Gov. Murphy to urge his fellow governors to keep their commitments for a full ban. The time is now for the DRBC to permanently ban all fracking and fracking waste from the Delaware River watershed,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

“After more than a decade of struggle to see a fracking ban enacted in the Delaware River Watershed, we anticipate a vote that will make history. The DRBC was formed to ensure that the decisions made in our Watershed are made based on what is best for the watershed and the communities, human and nonhuman, that live here and the 17 million people who rely on the Delaware River for drinking water. When we join the meeting, it will be in the spirit of ‘We are watching for you to fulfill your promise by voting to enact a full ban on fracking and its activities’. Nothing less will provide the protection needed for our outstanding, exceptional quality, yet vulnerable river from the ravages of fracking and its polluting waste and water degradation,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

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Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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