A coalition of environmental groups said it has amassed more than 63,000 signatures to a petition calling for a permanent ban of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware River Basin and plans this week to deliver it to four governors and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Although the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) enacted a de facto moratorium against fracking in 2009, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said the oil and gas industry has been lobbying to lift the ban, adding "there are signs that DRBC staff may be listening to their threats.
"As we face Washington's attack on our essential environmental protections, the danger of exposing the watershed to the devastation of fracking is all the more pressing considering that President Trump's representative on the DRBC, the Army Corps, holds one of the five votes that will decide the river's future," the environmental group said on its website.
The DRBC decided in 2009 that all gas drilling in the basin needed to be reviewed, and said it would not approve any development until it adopted new rules governing the industry. The agency postponed the natural gas development review in 2010 and failed to act on adopting new rules in 2011, leaving in place the de facto moratorium.
Environmentalists were scheduled to take the petition to Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) on Monday, Chris Christie (R-NJ) on Tuesday,John Carney (D-DE) on Wednesday and Tom Wolf (D-PA) on Thursday. On Friday, the petition is to be presented to Brigadier General William Graham, commander and division engineer of the Army Corps' North Atlantic Division. The five officials, all DRBC members, lead the interstate compact.
"Moratoria provide great protection from fracking until they don't," said Karen Feridun, founder of the anti-fracking group Berks Gas Truth. "The only way to truly safeguard the drinking water of 17 million people is to put in place a permanent ban. It's time for the DRBC to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin."
The environmental groups said 63,674 people signed their petition. Groups that collected signatures include Bucks County Environmental Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, CREDO, Clean Water Action New Jersey, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Environment America, Environment New Jersey, Food and Water Watch, Frack Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, PennEnvironment and 350 Bucks County. The Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania chapters of the Sierra Club also collected names.
Last March, the DRBC said it had no plans to lift the moratorium on natural gas drilling within the 13,539-square mile watershed. Also in March, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed by a small exploration and production company that challenged the authority of the DRBC to review and approve gas drilling in the watershed.