The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on Thursday voted to make permanent its longstanding de facto prohibition on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), drawing cheers from environmentalists and a sharp rebuke from oil and gas industry advocates in the region.
The DRBC, the hybrid interstate and federal regulatory body established in 1961 to oversee the waters of the Delaware River Basin, voted to adopt a final rule prohibiting high volume hydraulic fracturing in the basin. The DRBC’s four state commissioners — Delaware Gov. John Carney, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf — all voted in favor of the measure. The commission’s federal representative, Brigadier Gen. Thomas J. Tickner of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, abstained.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) slammed the DRBC’s ban, saying it “tramples on sound science and private property rights.”
Much of the Delaware River Basin acreage in New York and Pennsylvania overlaps the Marcellus Shale.
“It may be a good day for those who seek higher energy prices for American consumers and a deeper dependence on foreign nations to fuel our economy, but this vote defies common sense, sound science, and is a grave blow to constitutionally protected private property rights,” said MSC president David Callahan.
“The commission’s blatant disregard for scientific evidence and bodies of independent research — including from the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin where continuous water quality and quantity monitors have shown no impact from shale development — further demonstrates the purely political nature of this action.”
Callahan singled out Wolf for siding with “out-of-state interests to jam through a fracking ban that directly harms working-class Pennsylvania families.”
Thursday’s vote is the culmination of a process that stretches back more than a decade, when the DRBC first took steps to restrict use of the completions technique for natural gas development, referred to more commonly as fracking in the political realm.
Environmental advocate Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, described Thursday’s vote as a “major victory.” However, she called for the DRBC to implement further measures to restrict natural gas development.
“We clearly still have further to go,” van Rossum said. “The ban on the actual fracking is irreplaceably important, but we also need a permanent ban that prevents the fracking industry from using our watershed as a dumping ground…and that prohibits it from sapping our precious waters.”
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