Delaware River Basin Fracking Ban Moves Forward

In a historic victory, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the body responsible for regulating activities affecting water quality in the Delaware River Basin, just released draft regulations banning fracking in the entire watershed. This is thanks to years of advocacy by NRDC and our allies throughout the region, who have been fighting for a ban since 2010.

However, as we expected, the regs allow other activities that could undermine the ban. This includes potentially contaminating drinking water sources by permitting fracking wastewater storage, treatment and disposal in the basin, and allowing companies to draw freshwater from the basin for use in fracking elsewhere.

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

Rob Friedman

These regs are not final, and will be open to public comment. So it will be critical for concerned residents to speak up to protect this important resource—which provides drinking water for over 15 million people from New York to Maryland—before they are finalized.

While a ban on fracking in the watershed has been our goal, the wastewater and freshwater extraction components make the ban incomplete. Much like drilling itself, opening the watershed to storage, treatment and disposal of contaminated fracking wastewater would endanger pristine fresh water supplies, and the communities throughout the watershed that rely on them. Additionally, banning fracking, only to extract and use freshwater for fracking elsewhere, both allows this dangerous practice to continue in other nearby areas while also depriving basin states of use of that water for more beneficial uses, such as drinking water and crop irrigation.

To truly protect people’s health, communities and the environment, the Commission must ban all aspects of this dangerous practice.  

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. Currently, the Watershed is protected from fracking by a de facto moratorium.

An incomplete ban, inclusive of drilling and all of its associated activities, is by no means certain--the Commission will take public comment on these draft regulations for the next 90 days.

What you can do to help fight for a full ban in the Delaware River Basin

There are a number of ways—some that can be done from your own home—to support a full ban:

  • Show up. Show your support for a full ban by joining me at the Commission’s next public business meeting. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, December 13 from 10:30 - 1:30 at  Washington Crossing Historic Park Visitor Center, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing, PA 18977. More information can be found here. The DRBC is also hosting public comment hearings in Pennsylvania. More information on how to register to attend can be found here.
  • Speak out. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, call your governor and ask them to advocate for a full ban on fracking in the Watershed, inclusive of drilling and all of its associated activities.
  • Submit comments on the draft regulations!

Join us in standing up for safe water and healthy communities, before it’s too late.

About the Authors

Rob Friedman

Policy Advocate, Environmental Justice & New York Programs

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