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New Jersey Governor Backs Frack Ban in Delaware River Basin

Two weeks after taking office, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he would join his Democratic counterparts from Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania in support of a ban against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware River Basin.

Last Thursday, Murphy sent a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, the current chairman of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), to express his support for a ban on fracking in the basin. Murphy said he was "disheartened" that his Republican predecessor, Chris Christie, had abstained from a vote last September to adopt a rulemaking that could ultimately lead to a ban.

"Let me be clear, New Jersey supports a ban on fracking and the DRBC's efforts to drive this policy through these draft regulations," Murphy wrote. "Moving forward, you can trust that my representative to the DRBC will exercise that authority with these priorities in mind."

In late November, the DRBC proposed to permanently ban fracking across its four-state region and rules changes to discourage fresh water exports and wastewater imports. Early last month, the commission added two public hearings and extended the public comment period to March 30.

Delaware River Basin acreage in New York and Pennsylvania overlaps the Marcellus Shale. The DRBC is led by the governors of the four aforementioned states and the federal government, represented by the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic division.

The DRBC said in 2009 all gas drilling in the basin needed to be reviewed but said it would not approve any development until rules were adopted governing the industry. The agency postponed the gas development review in 2010 and failed to act on adopting rules in 2011, leaving in place a de facto moratorium.

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