Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York Approve Resolution to Ban Fracking in Delaware River Basin
In a September 13, 2017 news release by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, it was reported that the Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York announced that they had voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin. The resolution is designed to promulgate regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York comprise a majority of the DRBC. The other two members of the DRBC are the Governor of New Jersey and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers voted against the measure, and New Jersey abstained from the vote.
The Delaware River Basin drains from portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people. Governors of the four states and the federal representative serve as the Delaware River Basin Commissioners and are tasked with overseeing a unified approach to managing the river system regardless of political boundaries. The DRBC has oversight in the basin for water-quality protection, permitting, water-conservation initiatives, water-supply allocation, watershed planning, drought management, flood-loss reduction, and recreation.
The DRBC resolution comes after congressional passage of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016, which requires federal, state, and local partners to work together and preserve the basin and its water resources. Congress passed the Act as part of a larger national legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
Hydraulic fracturing related to oil and gas development in the Delaware River Basin has been a contentious issue since 2010, when DRBC’s five Commissioners voted unanimously to "postpone consideration of well pad dockets until regulations are adopted." This postponement essentially put a moratorium on drilling for natural gas in several Pennsylvania counties and parts of southern New York.
In more recent news, some Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill (House Resolution 515) urging the DRBC to abandon any plans to regulate drilling beyond already established requirements and to suspend a consideration of a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Pennsylvania Representative Jonathan Fritz stated that passing the DRBC resolution would be detrimental to all Pennsylvanians by impacting jobs and depriving land owners of economic opportunities in the northeastern part of the state.