In the Age of Trump, Let’s Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Basin

The natural gas industry is actively trying to open the Delaware River Basin up to natural gas fracking—but we can stop them.
A fracking rig in Pennsylvania

The natural gas industry is actively trying to open the Delaware River Basin up to natural gas fracking—but we can stop them. 

The Delaware River Basin extends from New York to Maryland, and is an important water source for over 15 million people, about five percent of the nation's population. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse and pristine regions in the entire country, and because of this, Congress has designated several segments of the Delaware River and its tributaries for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Yet, despite the critical role it plays in both the region and the country, this unique area is at risk from fracking, a dangerous activity that extracts natural gas from the earth, harming the environment and communities in the process.  Rather than permit fracking in this area, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the body responsible for regulating this watershed, should impose a permanent fracking ban in the region.

NRDC recently joined 182 other organizations, representing millions of members, to submit a letter to the DRBC calling for a permanent ban on fracking in the river basin. The Commission is composed of five members—the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, as well as a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers. To pass a ban on fracking, all it would take is a vote by the majority, or 3 of its members. At this time, only one governor has publicly come forward in favor of a ban—Governor Tom Wolf. For this reason, it’s imperative that we reach out to all governors, even Governor Wolf, to make sure they know this issue is important to us.

This is not the first time the Delaware River Basin has been imperiled by the threat of fracking. In 2011 Commission was ready to green-light fracking in the Basin, and even issued draft regulations permitting drilling. But in the face of strong opposition, including from NRDC, the Commission did not move forward at that time with this proposal. Since 2011, there has been a de facto moratorium on fracking in the Basin.

Since then, the momentum against fracking has only intensified.

In 2015, after hard work by the environmental community, led by local grassroots groups with support from national groups like NRDC and the leadership of medical professionals, Governor Andrew Cuomo showed tremendous vision by making New York State the first state with natural gas reserves to ban fracking within its borders. In support of the ban, the state cited the overwhelming scientific evidence of fracking’s harm to both public health and the environment.

Since the ban in New York, the science showcasing the dangers of fracking has only intensified. Just this week, after a multi-year campaign, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed a bill into law banning fracking. Counties across the country have done the same. This development is not one made in isolation—organizers in states and municipalities across the country continue to advocate for bans and moratoria against this dangerous practice.

The movement to ban fracking is growing.
Credit: Rob Friedman

The Delaware River Basin should be included in this movement. Opening the River Basin to drilling would not only imperil the air, water, land, and community health for generations to come; it would also ramp up the development of new pipelines and compressor stations in neighboring states, which is the wrong direction for our communities and the climate. Instead of relying on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels of the past, we must turn to renewables and efficiency to power our future.

Momentum is building. In the age of Trump, where the federal government is doing all it can to erode basic safeguards to public health, we have an opportunity to harness state-level power to make real environmental progress. Now is the moment to stand up and fight back.

It’s time to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin.

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