The governors of Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania, comprising a majority of the Delaware River Basin Commission, announced Sept. 13 they had voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the commission to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin.
The DRBC vote was 3-to-1 with one abstention in passing the resolution for promulgating regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
Delaware Gov. John Carney said that the DRBC resolution is consistent with the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, a bill introduced by Carney and passed by Congress in 2016, by helping to ensure that the water resources of the basin will be protected for present and future generations.
The Delaware River Basin, which drains from portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people. Governors of the four basin states and a federal representative serve as DRBC, tasked with overseeing a unified approach to managing the river system without regard to political boundaries. The commission has oversight in the basin for water quality protection, water supply allocation, regulatory review, water conservation initiatives, watershed planning, drought management, flood loss reduction and recreation.
The DRBC resolution comes after Congressional passage December 2016 of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act. As jointly authored by then-Congressman Carney and Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act requires federal, state and local partners to work together and preserve the basin. Congress passed the act as part of a larger national legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
Development of oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin has been an issue since 2010, when the DRBC’s five commissioners voted unanimously to “postpone consideration of well pad dockets until regulations are adopted.” This action placed a de facto, temporary moratorium on drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania counties and parts of southern New York. Since 2011, the DRBC and the signatory parties have undertaken extensive discussion and research efforts related to unconventional shale gas drilling which resulted in the resolution passed today.
In addition, to ensure protection of water resources in the basin and beyond, Pennsylvania and New York have developed comprehensive programs to effectively manage wastes and waste products produced as a result of high-volume hydraulic hydro-fracturing operations. These protections are an aspect of state programs to manage solid and hazardous wastes, as well as to treat wastes in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act and analogous state clean water programs.