Shale Gas Extraction -- Drilling/Fracking
Shale Gas Extraction -- Drilling/Fracking
There is a moratorium on natural gas drilling/fracking and water withdrawals in the Delaware River Watershed, enacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in May 2010, by unanimous vote of the Commission's voting members - representatives of the Governors of Pennsylvania. New York, New Jersey and Delaware and President Obama's representative, the Army Corps of Engineers. When natural gas regulations were proposed by the DRBC with a close of public comment in April 2011, the public became engaged in a big way. Breaking all previous records for public input, 69,000 comments were submitted to the DRBC, most calling for the proposed rules to be scrapped because they were too weak and narrow and advocating for a comprehensive environmental impact analysis of what gas development would do to the Watershed and the 17 million people and almost 13,000 square miles of ecosystem that rely on the health and abundance of the Delaware River Watershed for water supply and habitat. In November 2011 the moratorium was almost lifted and the rules almost adopted but public pressure and the announcement of Gov. Markell of Delaware and the head of New York's Dept. of Environmental Conservation that they would not vote to approve the rules, caused the meeting to be cancelled and the rules to be sent back to the drawing board because there was not an assured majority to approve the lifting of the moratorium. As the DRBC continues to consider allowing drilling and fracking, the watershed health hangs precariously in the balance. Delaware Riverkeeper Network and many groups representing hundreds of thousands of members have called for a permanent ban on gas development in the Watershed since the dangerous practices involved are not compatible with maintaining and sustaining the water resources and ecosystems of the Delaware River Watershed.
The environmental impacts of natural gas drilling include water quantity (on average 11 million gallons of water is used to frack each well), water quality (hydrofracking chemicals, radioactive and highly toxic wastewater, drilling muds and cuttings, waste solids and residuals that results from the well development process), stormwater runoff (nonpoint source pollution, erosion, stream degradation), habitat and ecosystem destruction and disruption, air quality (pollution from methane and other gases, VOCs and other volatile materials, silica, particulates, etc.) noise and light pollution, and community/cultural, scenic and quality of life impacts. These impacts result in direct harm to public health, especially for those where drilling and its activities are occurring. A large body of evidence is being published today of the harms to human health and the environment. Inadequate regulation of the industry at every level allows these impacts to occur, burdening communities and the environment but no matter how fracking and shale gas development is regulated, the damages are unavoidable – fracking simply cannot be made safe or sustainable.
The practices required to extract natural gas are intrinsically polluting, allowing our aquifers and the environment to be permanently degraded, in violation of our environmental rights. The only way to avoid these negative impacts is to convert our energy systems away from these dirty fossil fuels and towards clean, sustainable, and renewable energy sources and energy efficiency policies.
As shale gas drilling and development inches closer to encroaching on the Delaware River Watershed, public concerns are growing for the safety of water supplies, air quality, the natural environment and communities that will be affected. The 17 million people who rely on the Delaware River for water, including New York City, Philadelphia and millions of residents of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware will all be directly effected if the water resources of the high quality upstream River is degraded. The practices that are used by the gas industry to extract and develop shale gas involve dangerous techniques such as hydraulic fracturing that inject chemicals--most of them hazardous, toxic and/or carcinogenic--and millions of gallons of water into each gas well.
The polluted flowback or “produced water” that erupts back up is contaminated with additional pollutants from the deep geology, such as radioactive materials, and is stored on the well site until it is trucked away to a wastewater plant or injected into
the deep wells (even though there are not enough facilities to handle the wastewater and earthquakes caused by the injections in Ohio and other states where many injection wells are located have caused the shut down of several, this highly toxic waste continues to be produced every day throughout the Marcellus and Utica shales). Well sites have huge well pads, usually over 5 acres, containing 6, 10, even 15 or more gas wells each; miles of roads and gas pipelines and compressor stations are begin built; and forests, farms, and rural communities are being transformed into urban, industrial conditions.
Wells can even be drilled in floodplains in both NY and PA. Communities across Pennsylvania where gas drilling is charging ahead are experiencing pollution incidents, accidents, gas well blowouts, spills, leaks, and illegal dumping of toxic wastewater and produced water, water well contamination, stream degradation and ruined farms and towns.
DRN invites you to join with the growing number of people who want to take action to defend our region from the degradation of shale gas drilling. We cannot sacrifice our water and environment to gas companies. Check out the supporting information below – there are links to multiple studies and reports that delve into all things fracking. Information is power and an informed public is our best defense. People and communities are organizing and fighting back and there are many ways to get involved.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network published (September 2015) a guidebook, “Defending the Environmental Rights of Pennsylvania Communities from Shale Gas Development”, to provide support and guidance to elected officials, government entities, and residents working at the municipal level to protect the environment and community resources from shale gas development.
The need for a permanent ban on all natural gas development, including drilling and fracking, in the Delaware River Watershed
In the Delaware River Watershed in 2017, DRBC has prohibited natural gas extraction projects in the Basin since 2010 while they study its potential impacts on water resources, a de-facto moratorium that does not allow permits to be issued until natural gas regulations are adopted. The DRBC almost adopted regulations in 2011 but its voting members, the Commissioners, cancelled the meeting where the vote would have occurred amid overwhelming public opposition and that stand-off has endured to this day. However, in early 2017, the DRBC staff raised alarm bells with signals that the DRBC may be moving to adopt regulations and lift the current moratorium.
The Delaware River Basin Commission’s moratorium was put in place 7 years ago by the Commission based on the determination that natural gas projects, individually or cumulatively, could have a substantial impact on the River’s water resources.
As the federal-interstate agency formed in 1961 to manage the water resources of the Watershed, the Commission members – the Governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware and the Army Corps of Engineers for the federal government – represent the public’s interests. Chief among the Commission’s responsibilities is protecting the water supply of 17 million people, including New York City and Philadelphia.
As background, the Wild and Scenic Delaware River is classified by DRBC as Special Protection Waters (SPW) due to exceptionally high water quality and outstanding natural resources with special regulations that protect those resources and maintain the River’s exceptional water quality. The entire drainage area that flows to the nontidal Delaware River, which extends from Hancock NY to Trenton NJ, is designated as SPW, and is the longest stretch of anti-degradation waters in the nation. The Commission’s mandated protection of these resources makes it impossible to allow drilling and fracking in the nontidal river protected by DRBC’s Special Protection Waters designation.
When the commission enacted the moratorium three main concerns were cited – the diminishment of surface and groundwater, the release of pollution, and the impacts of frack waste disposal. In the intervening years, a substantial body of knowledge has developed containing significant evidence that shale gas development has myriad adverse effects on our air, water, and land, public health, property interests, and agriculture, effecting present and future generations.
Water use for oil and gas well development and for stimulation and extraction of gas from wells is very large, particularly for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) - the predominant method used today to extract gas - which requires high volumes of water. On average, 11 million gallons of water is used to frack a shale well, a depletive use because the water is not returned to the source, most of it completely removed from the hydrologic cycle when it is injected into deep formations. Of particular concern in the Delaware River Watershed where the shale underlies the upper basins’ streams, is that the required water can remove up to 70 percent of the water in small streams, permanently depleting crucial flows, disrupting natural flow regimes and increasing damaging runoff, essentially turning some of our highest quality streams into ditches. Removal of fresh water flows also allows for the concentration of contaminants when aquifers are overdrawn, reducing base flow of streams, in turn affecting water quality and habitats.
In terms of pollution potential, fracking uses toxic chemicals and hazardous materials are produced by the formations that are fractured. 1,076 chemicals are known to be used in fracking fluids, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many of them carcinogenic, including some linked to childhood leukemia.
Based on all the information that has become available about the impacts of drilling, fracking and natural gas development in the last seven years since the moratorium was enacted, the time to enact a permanent ban is now. In 2016, groups involved in keeping the Delaware River Watershed frack-free began an effort to achieve a complete ban at the DRBC.
In the a statistical analysis of the body of scientific literature by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, 685 peer reviewed papers were reviewed and the overwhelming majority of studies found evidence of or potential adverse impacts from gas drilling and/or fracking on water, air, and human health. In the most recent Fifth edition of the Compendium, the evidence of the indelible damage that is occurring as a result of shale gas development and fracking is examined in over 1,200 peer-reviewed research articles. 
Studies reveal significant evidence that shale gas development has an adverse effect on drinking water quality, public health, property interests, agriculture and on our air, water, and land.
The negative impacts of shale gas development are documented by PA Department of Environmental Protection’s accounting of 308 private water well contamination cases that were determined by the agency to have been caused by oil and gas operations through March 2018.  The EPA’s newly released hydraulic fracturing study provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources and includes water impacts from shale gas in the Pennsylvania community of Dimock.
In terms of waste production, reuse and disposal, both wastewater and solid wastes pose challenges that have not yet been resolved by government agencies or the industry. Currently, no set of federal regulations for waste produced during fracking exists except for a prohibition by EPA for the treatment of gas and oil wastewater at sewage treatment facilities. This only addresses part of the management issues and leaves some critical loopholes in place that pose environmental threats. Because of a 1988 oil and gas industry waste exemption from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), oil and gas waste is not regulated as hazardous, even though it contains hazardous constituents. In fact, the shale gas industry has received unprecedented exemptions from our nation’s most important environmental and public health laws, making adequate regulation virtually impossible.
Fracking produces waste that contains many of the toxics that are injected and also deep geology pollutants that are disturbed and ejected to the surface, exposing the environment and those who live in it to the increased risk of disease and adverse health effects. The radioactive isotopes that are brought to the surface can contain dangerous levels of radioactivity, requiring special monitoring and handling. Measurements by New York Department of Environmental Conservation show radium in drill cuttings from gas wells over 200 times background concentrations. Duke University scientists found Ra-226 concentrations in stream sediments at the point of discharge of a fracking wastewater facility were 200 times greater than upstream and background sediments and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations.
After six years of exhaustive study, the State of New York prohibited fracking based on environmental and public health analysis. The NY Department of Health concluded that the overall weight of the evidence demonstrated the likelihood of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes and environmental impacts from fracking could not prevented, leading to the Governor’s decision to ban high volume high fracturing in the state. The State of Maryland permanently banned fracking after 2 years of study, based on the potential for adverse public health and environmental impacts.
The Commission has not conducted a comprehensive assessment of the cumulative and long-term impacts of shale gas development that illustrates that natural gas development could safely occur within the Delaware River Basin without degradation of the Watershed’s water resources and the essential values of Special Protection Waters. In fact, the evidence supports that shale gas cannot be extracted or developed safely with current technology.
A vitally important cumulative impact is the climate effects of shale development in the Watershed. Natural gas is primarily methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon over a 20 year time frame and its effects persist for hundreds of years. The well documented vented and fugitive losses from natural gas systems contribute to atmospheric warming; current technology and practices have not controlled these releases. EPA once thought the releases of methane from the development of natural gas were negligible – we know better today as the data has developed. EPA says 27% more methane is being leaked than previous estimates and many scientists say it’s much greater than that because of the way the gases are measured, especially when looking at the entire life cycle of fracked gas.
The emissions are so great that it is projected that their release from the build out of Marcellus shale will prevent the achievement of global warming goals in Pennsylvania, accelerating climate change. In fact, nationwide the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production, transport and use cancel out any benefit natural gas provides despite natural gas releasing less carbon than coal or oil when it is burned. Climate change impacts on the basin’s water resources include changes in precipitation and runoff that increase flooding and drought, impairment of habitats and water quality (including salt water intrusion to Delaware Estuary water supplies) and sea level rise.
Regardless of the evidence that natural gas development is not and cannot be made safe and that degradation of the environment and public health from shale gas drilling and fracking cannot be avoided, it became evident by January of 2017 seems that DRBC staff was maybe moving ahead with drilling regulations and the lifting of the moratorium. An article in Pennsylvania Digest reported that Pennsylvania DEP staff is was working with DRBC staff to develop drilling and fracking regulations.  While DRBC has reported over the years that they continue to consider regulations and research the issue, there had not been public news accounts of this previously.
A lawsuit brought by the industry-backed Wayne Land Management Group is attacking the jurisdiction of DRBC over gas development, raising concerns about its outcome. The new Trump Administration is rolling back environmental protections, pushing dirty fossil fuel development including domestic shale gas, and defunding and declawing agencies that protect natural resources, public lands and parks, scenic and recreational rivers. The federal agency vote on the DRBC, the Army Corps of Engineers, represents President Trump so there is mounting concern over how the new federal Administration will influence the DRBC policies and decisions, particularly gas drilling and fracking.
Organizations came together in 2017, based on mounting concerns, to develop and execute a campaign to completely ban fracking once and for all in the Delaware River Watershed. 183 organizations representing many hundreds of thousands of members and the four states whose waters flow to the Delaware River submitted a letter to the Delaware River Basin Commission voting members calling for a permanent ban on fracking in the Watershed on March 15, 2017. The groups insisted that the mountains of scientific evidence, the data about water contamination from fracking, and the fracking ban in New York State and Maryland provide more than enough reason for the Commissioners to enact a ban instead. Hundreds of people have demonstrated and made public comment about the dangers and destructive impacts of gas drilling and fracking and about the public’s health and the watershed’s precious resources that must be protected from these impacts at the DRBC’s public meetings since February 2017.
Each day from July 24 through 28, organizations presented petitions calling for a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed signed by over 65,000 people. At press conferences held for each Governor in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and the Army Corps of Engineers, the voting members of the DRBC were presented with the petitions. Click here to download the petition.
At the DRBC’s public meeting Sept. 13, the DRBC Commissioners abruptly introduced and approved a resolution that could lead to a ban on fracking but is problematic in many ways. First, it directs staff to publish regulations that seek comment on “…prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the Basin”, which is not necessarily an absolute ban on all aspects throughout the watershed, and does not cover drilling that does not use fracking. Secondly, the staff was directed to develop regulations that could allow the “…storage, treatment, disposal and/or discharge of wastewater within the Basin associated with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for the production of natural gas where permitted” and that could allow the “…inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.” The public at the meeting strongly pushed for the DRBC not to vote on the resolution as drafted and to reconsider a complete and permanent ban on all aspects of drilling and fracking and all related activities throughout the Basin. PA, NY and DE voted yes for the resolution, NJ abstained and the federal government voted no. The draft regulations were issued Nov. 30, 2017. The approved resolution is here.
Read the letter the Delaware Riverkeeper Network sent to the three Governors that voted for the Sept 13, 2017 resolution regarding fracking to understand, in full, our concerns.
The coalition of organizations that make up the campaign to Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Watershed have vowed to fight for a COMPLETE ban on fracking throughout the Delaware River Watershed, including a ban on frack wastewater processing and discharges and a ban on water exports to fuel fracking elsewhere. Nothing less is acceptable; it makes no sense to ban fracking but allow its toxic pollution and water depletion to ruin the Watershed.
The Coalition to Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Watershed submitted a letter with DRBC for a more open and just process for commenting on the draft regulations and proposed ban. The comment period was set to close February 28, far too short, and one a few hearings, all in Pennsylvania, were set. The groups demanded more public input opportunities and changes to the difficult process that DRBC set for how to submit comments – the agency wouldn’t even allow written comments to be submitted by email, fax or regular U.S. Postal Service mail. See the letter here. Groups also attended the DRBC’s December public meeting to deliver the message that fair and accessible public input into this all-important rulemaking was essential and must be provided to protect the watershed and to provide a just process.
As a result, the public comment period was extended to march 30, 2018 and 3 more public hearing opportunities were provided – but they were still all in Pennsylvania and one was only on the telephone.
Throughout the public comment period, the Coalition to Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Watershed worked to ensure as much input from the public as possible, given the constraints of the difficult to navigate comment process and the time of year. Delaware Riverkeeper Network produced and hosted several webinars on the draft regulations and shared information from experts and reports to help people prepare for the Public Hearings so they could confidently testify verbally and to write informed comments through the written comment process. From the beginning of February through to the close of public comment on March 30, the Coalition to Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Watershed provided different suggested comments and background information on various aspects of the draft natural gas regulations and proposed frack ban through easy-to-use on-line platforms that submit your comments directly to DRBC – Watershed Wednesdays and 8 Weeks to a Ban (see Supporting information below). The goal was to encourage lots of public input to explain why a COMPLETE ban on fracking and its activities in the Delaware River Watershed is required.
National environmental organizations, anti-fracking groups, community organizations, and residents together submitted at least 40,000 comments to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in support of a full ban on fracking and all drilling-related activities, including wastewater treatment and water withdrawals by March 30. Counting late submissions, over 60,000 comments were submitted. The Coalition also submitted a letter signed by 126 groups, representing millions of members of the organizations represented, making the same demand.
Unfortunately, DRBC issued a press release stating it received less than 9,000 comments. The discrepancy is due to the fact that the DRBC counted thousands of individual comments submitted by members of organizations as a single comment, severely diminishing the widespread support across the region, and the country, for a full ban and denigrating the value of those who took the time to comment. See the press release on this issue here.
Municipalities throughout the Delaware River watershed have been adopting resolutions In support of s COMPLETE frack ban over the last several months. Many of those resolutions, now numbering about 20, were submitted to DRBC during the public comment period and some were submitted prior and after the formal comment period. Townships, boroughs, cities and counties continue to consider resolutions and many are moving draft resolutions through their process with a goal of influencing the final decision of the DRBC Commissioners.
DRBC has announced that they expect to vote on the draft regulations and proposed ban by the end of 2018. Organizations continue to attend DRBC meetings, submit information and relevant documents to DRBC regarding fracking and its activities and publicly address the pressing issues of frack wastewater pollution, water depletion by fracking, and the devastating impacts of drilling and fracking.
Representatives of organizations that comprise the DRBC Full Frack Ban Coalition Organizing Committee attend every DRBC public meeting to share information that is emerging regarding fracking’s impacts since the close of the public comment period on the draft gas regulations. These include studies such as an in-depth analysis of the EPA’s frack wastewater report and the expert report DRN commissioned here.. Another seminal report analyzed for the DRBC was “Keystone Secrets: Records Show Widespread Use of Secret Fracking Chemicals Is a Looming Risk for Delaware River Basin, Pennsylvania Communities”, by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) that exposed the use of secret yet toxic chemicals in fracking by companies operating in Pennsylvania (see report here). A press conference and in-person testimony brought public and DRBC attention to this issue that is falling between the cracks in PA. Also presented and discussed have been the updated editions of The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (“the Compendium”) of scientific articles about the health and environmental effects of fracking and its operations on the health of communities that is published by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York. Read the report here.
The coalition presented additional health studies to DRBC based on two reports commissioned by DRN on the effects of fracking on Pennsylvania’s economy and public health. The commissioned reports are entitled “Categorical Review of Health Reports on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development; Impacts in Pennsylvania”, authored by Fractracker Alliance (linked here) and “The Economic Costs of Fracking in Pennsylvania”, authored by ECONorthwest (linked here). Read the Talking Points based on these landmark reports here. See a news report on the public meeting here.
Organizations have also pointed out that recent decisions from the Trump Administration made it more urgent than ever that Governors Murphy (NJ), Cuomo (NY), Wolf (PA) and Carney (DE) act right away to pass a complete ban on fracking and all of its associated activities throughout the Delaware River Basin. The coalition reasoned that supporting action to curtail fracking based on the climate impacts of methane as a greenhouse gas was a pressing need. Citing United Nation’s climate experts who have been giving dire warnings about how we need to urgently act to move away from fossil fuel extraction and burning, including fracked gas, to avoid catastrophic climate change, (see the report here), and the U.S. National Climate Assessment Report warning that the impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country and will worsen as more frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events occur, (see report here), the groups’ representatives called for action to stop greenhouse emissions from shale gas development by the enactment of a full fracking ban. The coalition stated that President Trump continues to deny that humans cause climate change. In addition to ignoring climate impacts, despite releasing an EPA report that showed the toxic dangers of fracking wastewater to our waterways, (see report here), the Trump Administration’s EPA may undo the prohibition on the acceptance of frack wastewater at the nation’s municipal sewage facilities and ease current water quality protections, paving the way for frack wastewater to be dumped in surface water, including the Delaware River Watershed (see details here). These actions by the current administration undermine the science behind the EPA’s frack wastewater report and work against stopping the pollution caused by this toxic waste and its mishandling and they allow runaway climate impacts from methane emissions to continue unabated.
Group actions during the summer of 2018 included banners being unfurled at popular river recreation areas to raise awareness. For instance, demonstrators met on the Barryville Bridge that connects Shohola Township, Pennsylvania and Barryville, New York to hang a banner that proclaimed, “Defend the Delaware; Ban Fracking and Frack Waste” as people paddled and floated by on the river. New York Governor Cuomo and Pennsylvania Governor Wolf were called to unite to completely ban frack drilling, ban the processing and discharge of wastewater produced by fracking, and ban water withdrawals for fracking. At another event, kayakers and canoeists unfurled the same banner while paddling on the river at Bordentown Beach in NJ. See the news report here.
In December 2018, 9 months after the DRBC closed the public comment period on the draft gas regulations, the coalition of groups calling for a complete ban on fracking, the import of frack wastewater for discharge and water withdrawals for fracking outside of the basin, pushed the issue of the need for the DRBC to vote for the full ban. Representatives of organizations and members of the public submitted 104,805 signed petitions to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) at their public Business Meeting. The petitions, collected by 15 organizations representing members in all four states that are part of the Delaware River Watershed, asks the Governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware to vote for a complete and permanent ban on fracking and its activities. Copies of the petitions were hand delivered with a public rally or press conference to each of the Governors at their state capitols and to the Army Corps of Engineers. The petitions call for a ban on fracking throughout the Delaware River Basin, a ban on frack wastewater storage, processing and discharges in the Basin, and a ban on water exports from the Delaware River Watershed to fuel fracking elsewhere. Read the petition here.
In March of 2019, there was a remarkable turn of events that showed our advocacy was working. NJ Governor Phil Murphy announced at a public event that he would vote for a COMPLETE ban at the DRBC, banning fracking, frack waste, and the withdrawal of water from the river for fracking. He asked the other DRBC Governors to work with him for a full ban “to ensure that the Commission’s final rules provide a complete ban on all fracking activities”. Both PA Governor Tom Wolf and DE Governor John Carney stated that day that they would also vote for a full ban. See the letter sent by our Coalition Organizing Committee sent to the Commissioners here. The groups signing the letter: Catskill Mountainkeeper, Clean Water Action, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Delaware Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, Food &Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council, and New Jersey Sierra Club. Unfortunately, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was not at the event and has not spoken publicly about his commitment to a COMPLETE ban since the 2019 declaration.
Advancing the campaign for a full and permanent fracking ban throughout the Delaware River Watershed into 2020, the issue of the climate impacts has been more thoroughly explored with the DRBC through testimony during the public comment session that the Commissioners’ hold at each public Business Meeting. In March of 2020, organizations and the public presented the most up to date climate science regarding methane as a greenhouse gas and studies that have been done in the last two years on the effects of climate change in the Delaware River Basin and the states that flow to the river. Read the Talking Points on climate here. Read the extensive Reference List presented to the Commissioners here. DRN also submitted comment on the DRBC’s Water Resources Plan 2020-2022 during the public hearing on the resolution for the adoption of the plan in February. Read the comment here. The Coalition also combined the issues of the need for a full fracking ban with opposition to the PennEast gas pipeline project that DRN has been fighting for several years by connecting the two issues of fracking and infrastructure for fracking in June 2020. See the Talking Points here.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro convened and then in June 2020 published Pennsylvania’s 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report #1 on the unconventional oil and gas industry. The report documents the unprecedented damage to the environment and human health that the “fracking boom” brought to communities where fracking occurred throughout the last decade in the Commonwealth. The DRBC Full Frack Ban Organizing Committee made a video over the summer regarding the findings. The speakers at the video forum examine the Grand Jury Report and explain how its documentation confirms what the Coalition representatives and other members of the public have submitted to the DRBC in support of a full fracking ban. The issues in the video were verbally presented to the DRBC during the public comment session of the September public Business Meeting. The speakers were: Catskill Mountainkeeper, Wes Gillingham; Clean Water Action, Eric Benson; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Barbara Arrindell; Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Tracy Carluccio; Environment New Jersey, Doug O'Malley; Food & Water Action, Eric Weltman; New Jersey Sierra Club, Jeff Tittel, Director; Wilmington Delaware scientist, Coralie Pryde. See the video of the forum, which was submitted to each Governor here. Read the letter transmitting the forum video here.
In November 2020, the groups that collaboratively work as the Delaware River Frack Ban Action Coalition sent a letter to the Commissioners urging a vote for a full frack ban as soon as possible. We continue to communicate with the state administrations to encourage the governors to introduce a resolution adopting the complete fracking ban. Read the letter here.
The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition Organizing Committee that is advocating for a complete ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, including a ban on frack wastewater discharges and withdrawals of water for fracking, submitted a White Paper in January 2021 to the new Biden Administration stating why a full ban on fracking is required in the Delaware River Watershed. The Coalition is working for a policy to be enacted by the Administration that a full and permanent ban on fracking in the Watershed is essential to protect the river and the drinking water for 17 million people and for the full ban to be finally voted into the DRBC’s water management regulations. Read the White Paper here.
In January 2021, a Complaint was filed by State Senators Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker, the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus and Damascus Township in Wayne County to overturn the current de facto moratorium on gas drilling, fracking, and related operations in the Delaware River Watershed. Read the press release from Delaware Riverkeeper Network regarding the Motion to intervene as a defendant that DRN filed in February 2021. DRN submitted the request with the court in opposition to the lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus and in defense of the DRBC’s jurisdiction over gas drilling and fracking and its power to enact a moratorium. Read the Motion to Intervene, which contains a Motion to Dismiss here. The DRBC will be filing a response and the court will decide if and when the case will proceed. Read the press release from the Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition decrying the lawsuit and describing it as an attack by fracking shills carrying out a thinly veiled industry grab.
On February 17, 2021, DRBC sent out a public notice about a special business meeting for 10:30 am, Thursday, February 25 to decide on the proposed natural gas regulations – which includes the provision to permanently ban fracking throughout the Watershed in all 4 states. The last minute announcement for a special meeting gave just one week’s notice saying they “will consider final action on DRBC’s Proposed Amendments to the Administrative Manual and Special Regulations Regarding Hydraulic Fracturing Activities”. It was also announced there would be no public comment opportunity. See the announcement and link to how to join the meeting here: https://www.nj.gov/drbc/meetings/meeting_feb252021.html
Whether or not they are going to adopt a COMPLETE ban on fracking that also includes a ban on the import and discharge of wastewater produced by fracking and a ban on water withdrawals for fracking outside of the basin, is unknown but it is reasonable to expect a vote for a FULL ban due to the policy statements discussed above where NJ Governor Murphy called for a full ban on fracking and its operations and PA Governor Wolf and DE Governor Carney pledged support for that vote. And it is the only way to provide the protection needed and nothing else is tolerable. People will be joining the DRBC meeting virtually on Feb. 25 to witness the vote by the Governors and the federal representative from President Biden in a “virtual march” and presence.
WHAT HAPPENED FERUARY 25 AT THE DRBC Special Meeting:
The DRBC voted to permanently ban fracking throughout the Delaware River Watershed, affecting four states, after 12 years of raging debate and public discourse. The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition and many members of the public - reported by DRBC to be at 400 during the meeting - joined the virtual DRBC meeting. The Governors of the four states - New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware - and a federal representative for President Biden from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - voted to enact the regulations that were pending since the public comment period closed in March 2018. All four states voted to approve the ban; the Army Corps representative abstained.
See the resolution adopting the regulations that ban fracking here: https://www.nj.gov/drbc/library/documents/Res2021-01_HVHF.pdf
Action was also taken in a second resolution towards the proposal of regulations covering the import of frack wastewater and the export of water for fracking. These regulations could lead to the adoption of a ban on the import of wastewater produced by fracking for its processing and discharge here and the export of water from the basin for use in fracking outside of the watershed. See that resolution here: https://www.nj.gov/drbc/library/documents/ResForMinutes022521_regs-transfers.pdf
The ban resolution prohibits the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to extract gas wherever it is located within the basin (which includes parts of PA, NY, and NJ). The DRBC decision was based on fracking‘s water quality and water quantity impacts and was cheered as an essential first step in stopping the devastating impacts of fracking in the Watershed. The next step, captured in a second resolution, will commence a rulemaking process. Draft regulations are required to be issued by September 30, 2021, to cover the import of wastewater produced by fracking and the export Delaware River water outside of the basin for fracking, DRN and over 100,000 people who have expressed themselves to the DRBC over the last 3 years consider this next step as absolutely critical to truly protect the entire Watershed.
No public comment opportunity and a virtual meeting meant that the public was not able to show their support for the ban by demonstrating at the DRBC meeting, which has been done countless times over the last years, dating back to the institution of the de facto moratorium on drilling and fracking in the Watershed in 2010. Instead, over 400 people joined the meeting remotely, and more watched through YouTube, and expressed themselves through social media and emails to the Commissioners over the days since the meeting was announced eight days ago. A virtual Watershed Frack Ban Happy Hour was hosted by DRN Friday Feb. 26 at 6:00 pm to celebrate the ban, share milestone memories from the last decade and gather forces for the next essential steps to ban frack waste import and water export in the coming months.
On March 10, 2021, Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a motion to dismiss the complaint filed by State Senator Yaw, Baker, PA GOP and Damascus Township, arguing that the federal court lacked jurisdiction because plaintiffs’ claims were mooted by the DRBC’s resolution banning fracking in the Basin, and that if the claims were not mooted, then plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.
On March 12, Pennsylvania Democratic Senators filed to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the PA Senate GOP Caucus to overturn the fracking ban in the Delaware River Watershed https://www.senatorstevesantarsiero.com/democratic-senators-intervene-in-fracking-lawsuit-against-drbc/. See the legal filings here, and here.
 PSE Healthy Energy Library, https://www.zotero.org/groups/pse_study_citation_database/items; See Compendium, http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/; Delaware Riverkeeper Network, “Unsafe and Unsustainable,” http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/Documents/DRN_Report_Unsafe+Unsustainable_fr.pdf
 Hansen, L., Habicht, S., and Faeth, P., CNA, “Potential Environmental Impacts of Full-development of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania”, September 2016, p. 35.
 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2015. Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources – External Review Draft. June 2015. Available at: www.epa.gov/hfstudy; Hein 2012, p. 2.
 Deziel, N. et al, Yale School of Public Health, Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental and Epidemiology, January 2016.
 Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility, “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, And Media Findings Demonstrating Risks And Harms Of Fracking (Unconventional Gas And Oil Extraction)”, Fourth Edition, November 17, 2016.
 Delaware Riverkeeper Network, “Unsafe and Unsustainable,” http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/Documents/DRN_Report_Unsafe+Unsustainable_fr.pdf
 Oil and Gas operations are exempt from portions of major federal environmental laws including: Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (the Superfund Law); and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Amy Mall, et. al., Natural Resources Defense Council, Drilling Down, October 2001, p.iv.
 NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation, August 2012, re. Allied Landfill, Niagara County.
 Warner, NR, et al, “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania,” Enviro Science and Technology, Oct 2, 2013, pp. 11849.
 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
 PSE Healthy Energy, “Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Projected Future Marcellus Development”, 2017.
FRACK BAN WEBINAR SERIES
Watch our webinars to learn what the draft rules say and the proposed ban could mean.
- (2021-12-01): Prep Rally for DRBC Public Hearings
- (2021-10-27): The Real Voices of the Marcellus Shale: Why Frack Wastewater Must be Banned.
- (2021-09-15): Water is Life: Don't Waste it on Fracking
- (2021-08-19): Radioactivity in Fracking! Too Hot to Handle
- (2021-07-21): Why Does Frack Wastewater Threaten Public Health?
- (2021-06-16): Frack Ban Virtual Forum
Watershed Wednesdays DRBC Comment Campaign
December 15, 2021 through February 28, 2022.
- Watershed Wednesday #4: January 5: Why fracking wastewater must be categorically banned
- Watershed Wednesday #3: Dec. 29: Climate Impacts
- Watershed Wednesday #2: Dec. 22: Example of a “Loopholed” project – Elcon
- Watershed Wednesday #1: Dec. 15 Understanding the Draft Import and Export Rules
- (2020-08-19) “FORUM: Lessons from the Grand Jury: Why Fracking Must be Banned”.
- (2018-01-18): Frack Wastewater Import and Discharge
- (2018-01-11): Water Extraction and Export
- (2018-01-04): The Proposed Frack Ban and Regulations
- (2017-11-20): Reaching out to Municipalities and Elected Officials to Support the Delaware River Watershed Frack Ban