WATCHING GOVERNMENT: DRBC proposal would bar fracing

Jan. 29, 2018
The Delaware River Basin Commission held 2 days of public hearings Jan. 23 and Jan. 25 to accept comments on its proposed regulations to protect water resources in four East Coast states from possible problems associated with hydraulic fracturing of tight shale formations to produce natural gas.

The Delaware River Basin Commission held 2 days of public hearings Jan. 23 and Jan. 25 to accept comments on its proposed regulations to protect water resources in four East Coast states from possible problems associated with hydraulic fracturing of tight shale formations to produce natural gas.

DRBC said its revised draft rules would prohibit fracing in much of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. They would discourage importation of wastewater and exportation of water and include rules to address the interbasin transfer of water and wastewater related to fracing.

The draft rules also included provisions to assure that the treatment and disposal of produced frac water does not impair or conflict with water preservation in the basin for uses under DRBC's comprehensive plan.

The commission also invited written comments, which will be accepted until 5 p.m. EST on Mar. 30. Additional hearings will be held on Feb. 22 in Schencksville, Pa., and on Mar. 6 by telephone.

Opponents were not satisfied. "We know fracing cannot be done safely and that the pollution from [it] is unavoidable, no matter what regulations the DRBC may adopt to control it," Tracy Carluccio of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said on Jan. 23. "The only way to protect our communities and our environment is to prevent fracing altogether, including prohibiting the dumping of toxic wastewater and the withdrawal of water for fracing."

Stephanie Meadows, upstream manager at the American Petroleum Institute, raised a different point when she testified at DRBC's Jan. 23 hearing in Waymart, Pa.

"It is important to note that within the current vision statement of this commission, it states that comprehensive watershed management will be accomplished by 'basing decisions on sound science.' Therefore, DRBC's final decision on high volume hydraulic fracturing must be grounded in the science," she began.

That's not the case with this proposed rulemaking, which relies on two specific studies: a 2015 final supplemental generic environmental impact statement by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation and the US Environmental Protection Agency's 6-year, $30 million fracing and water resources study, Meadows maintained.

Other research overlooked

"In response, a series of recent reputable studies by no fewer than seven government agencies and several academic institutions support the conclusion that [fracing] is not a major threat to drinking water," Meadows continued.

She urged the commission to recognize that those studies, federal and state regulations, industry best practices, and technology and engineering advancements allow for safe and responsible energy development with a smaller environmental footprint and necessary protections for communities.

"It has worked for the nation, and it can work for the Delaware River basin," she said.