In the face of strong opposition from the public, on Wednesday night the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) unanimously voted to postpone its review of a request from XTO (an Exxon Mobil-owned company) to withdraw huge amounts of water from a sensitive Special Protection trout stream in New York - where, of course, there is still a de facto moratorium in place against new drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations.
As I wrote last week, the Texas oil company applied for a permit to withdraw 250,000 gallons of water per day to support hydraulic fracturing activities, even though such drilling is currently not permitted in either the Delaware River Watershed or in New York State. Thankfully, the DRBC refused to review this unreasonable request for the moment without further deliberation and input. And facing criticism for its decision to hold the hearing hundreds of miles from the most affected region, the DRBC also voted to host a public hearing in that area before making a final decision on the permit application.
These recent developments are a good sign, but we’re not in the clear yet – the DRBC is still on track to issue final gas drilling regulations soon that would open up the Delaware River Basin,. It is critical that the Commission continues to take a measured approach and protect our watershed from risky gas drilling activity. This means conducting a full environmental impact review before even thinking about moving forward with permitting.