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Rules For Drilling In Delaware River Basin Proposed

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The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) just issued its “modified” natural gas development regulations, and not everyone is happy with the proposed drilling rules which, if adopted, would allow fracking in the watershed. Some organizations seek increased public input prior to adoption.

The revisions to the proposed rules are meant to direct natural gas activities in the watershed area, said Philly.com, and were presented in a very “technical” 100-page document that, in essence, will allow 300 wells to be drilled pending a reassessment 18 months later. The rules seek increased water monitoring, restrictions on water use, and remediation funding. All sides agreed on one thing: The rules, such as they are, are far too complex to immediately assess, said Philly.com.

A vote is scheduled at a November 21 special meeting. If passed, the rules become effective 60 days later, enabling drillers to initiate the application process that would start the first production of wells in the Delaware River Basin, Philly.com noted.

Environmentalists are very worried, saying the commission did not permit a public comment period on the revisions and never conducted an environmental impact study prior to regulation development. Industry representative, Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, was happy the commission was moving forward, but was concerned that it was not clear what would be mandated under those plans and that “it remains unclear how timely permits may be processed,” Philly.com reported.

Some see long-term legal problems. For instance, Jeffrey Featherstone, professor of community and regional planning at Temple University who is also a former deputy executive director at the commission, said, “It’s a complicated document. I’d be shocked if there weren’t lawsuits as soon as the commission takes action,” noting that the financial remediation rules for water consumption are “pretty big numbers…. There’s some money at stake here,” according to Philly.com.

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum disagrees with the plan. “Once you open up our basin to drilling, you have opened it up to drilling, whether you talk about 300 wells in an 18 month period or more, you’ve put us on the slippery slope,” she said, wrote MidHudsonNews. “You can’t drink money and you can’t eat money. You need water. You need healthy food. You need clean air to breathe.” Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper agreed. “The Upper Delaware River is a nationally recognized ecological treasure and because of its pristine nature is able to provide clean drinking water for millions of people. Now we have the DRBC proposing how to trash it,” MidHudsonNews reported.

The DRBC “should not vote on fracking regulations that threaten this irreplaceable water supply in the absence of the environmental review it was required to conduct and without allowing citizens to weigh in on its last minute revisions to those regulations,” Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper Watershed program director, pointed out, according to the MidHudsonNews.

Natural gas extraction involves the process of hydraulic fracturing—fracking—in which fracking fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake gas and oil deposits loose. Among many other issues, a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act has enabled energy companies to keep confidential the chemicals used in the fluids; however, studies have shown the fluids often contain some hazardous chemicals, including the carcinogen, benzene, and diesel.

Fracking opponents have long been concerned that fracking could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources and, while industry promotes the notion of domestic resource reliance and increased employment and economic healing, environmentalists point to a growing list of devastation including serious human, animal, aquatic, and atmospheric health issues; destruction of natural and residential habitats; decimation of critical infrastructures; and myriad issues with water supplies that run the gamut from contamination to flammable drinking water. Recently, reports have been on the rise linking fracking to earthquakes and increased seismic activity in locations worldwide.

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