Delaware River Basin Commission to Consider Fracking Ban

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the body responsible for regulating water quality in the Delaware River, announced yesterday that they will re-open a process that may lead to banning fracking in the watershed. Despite this, the resolution that has been put forward by the DRBC could open the Watershed to the dangers of fracking wastewater contamination and the withdrawal of freshwater for fracking elsewhere. This would be a dangerous mistake.

The Delaware River Basin extends from the Catskills in New York to parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, and is a vital water source for over 15 million people – about five percent of the nation's population. Recognizing the watershed’s outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational contributions to the nation, Congress has designated several segments of the Delaware River and its tributaries for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Paddling on the Delaware River, Summer 2017

Mark Izeman

Yet despite the critical role it plays in the lives of millions of Americans, this unique area has been at risk to fracking for over ten years. While home to bass, spawning shad, trout, and one of the healthiest American eel populations in our country, the Delaware River Basin also sits on top of the Marcellus Shale, a prominent source of natural gas. For over seven years, NRDC and our allies have urged the DRBC to stop fracking in this important region. And since 2011, there has been a de facto moratorium on fracking and its associated activities.. 

Since then, the movement to ban fracking has been growing. In 2015, New York officially banned fracking across the entire state. Earlier this year this year, Maryland did the same, drawing on the growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of fracking on public health. This summer, members of the public submitted 63,000 comments to the DRBC commissioners asking for a ban in the watershed. 

But a ban is by no means certain. The Commission has merely begun the process to start consider banning fracking in the Watershed. While initiating the process to vote on a fracking ban in the watershed is a step in the right direction, the resolution, as written, could present significant dangers to the Delaware River Basin. Specifically, the resolution states that the Commission will seek comment on opening the Watershed to storage, treatment, disposal and discharge of fracking wastewater, and allowing the withdrawal of water for fracking elsewhere. This would be a step backwards from the existing moratorium, which protects against all of these activities. Opening up the Watershed to fracking or any of its associated activities presents dangers for millions of people across the region.

Community members rally outside of the DRBC meeting this past summer.

Rob Friedman

The bottom line is that no regulations can fully protect our communities and the environment from the dangers of fracking and its associated activities. Only a full ban on fracking in the watershed is sufficient – and it must include all aspects of this dangerous practice, including the storage, treatment and disposal of wastewater.  

So – We are going to need your help in the coming months! 

Here is what you can do to help fight for a ban in the Delaware River Basin:

  • Show up. Show your support for the ban by joining me at the Commission’s next public business meeting. The meeting will take place tomorrow, September 13, 2017, at 10:30am at Linksz Pavilion, Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown, Pennsylvania.
  • Speak out. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, call your governor and ask them to support a fracking ban in the Watershed.
  • Submit your comments. The Commission intends to release draft regulations related to fracking in the watershed no later than November 30, 2017. Once the draft regulations are released, the public has the opportunity to comment on the draft regulations. And we need you to say loud and clear that the Commission needs a ban without any language that could result in the storage, treatment, disposal and/pr discharge of fracking wastewater, or the withdrawal of water for fracking elsewhere.

About the Authors

Rob Friedman

Policy Advocate, Environmental Justice & New York Programs

Kimberly Ong

Staff Attorney
Blog Post

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

Blog Post

NRDC joined people from all walks of life in Washington Crossing, PA to speak at the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) business meeting in support of a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed.

Join Us