Permanent Fracking and Drilling Bans Flow Down the Delaware River
Citing unacceptable risk, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted at the end of February to indefinitely rid the area of natural-gas drilling and fracking. Responsible for upwards of 13 million people’s water supply, the commission indicated a crucial waterway was in danger of both immediate and long-term hazards associated with the industry’s processes.
Denouncing gas extraction, commission members stated that drilling companies have negatively affected surface-water and groundwater supplies. Drinking water was defended in conjunction with adversely impacted fish species in a grouping of regions.
“The fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin is a momentous victory for the public health, the environment, and against climate change,” said Kimberly Ong, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney.
Feeling the effects
The ban’s reach has significant strength. Several will feel its impact.
- Applies to the entire watershed
- Influences Wayne and Pike Counties in Pennsylvania’s northeastern region
- Wayne and Pike Counties are included in the Marcellus shale, the country’s biggest gas field
- Approximately 13,000 wells have been drilled in other locations within the Marcellus, with Pennsylvania placing second in gas production states
Opposing the moratorium
With any good debate or fight, there has to be a contradicting opinion. Clashing viewpoints were voiced by Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers and organized landowners. Filing lawsuits, the opposition has rallied to challenge the commission’s jurisdiction of instituting regulation of gas development within the watershed.
Farmers and private landowners who previously leased their holdings to drilling companies expressed great dislike for the financial disruption the commission has posed. At the other end of the fossil fuel spectrum, the opposition has decried for long periods of time that large-scale gas exploration could not be done safely within the vicinity of water sources and fisheries. Claiming potential impact down the line to Philadelphia and 50% of New York City’s population, the commission has stood steadfast in protecting the Delaware and its tributaries.
“It may be a good day for those who seek higher energy prices for American consumers and a deeper dependence on foreign nations to fuel our economy, but this vote defies common sense, sound science and is a grave blow to constitutionally protected private property rights,” said David Callahan, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC). “The commission’s blatant disregard for scientific evidence and bodies of independent research-including from the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin where continuous water quality and quantity monitors have shown no impact from shale development-further demonstrates the purely political nature of this action.”
No stopping in sight
The recent ban clearly reigns as the commission’s ultimate goal as the process itself originated more than a decade ago when it waged war against completions technology, better known as hydraulic fracturing.
The moratorium staged against gas drilling appears slightly notorious as it too has been in place for several years. Its push to permanent upgrade in the 13,539-square mile watershed was pitched in 2017. Both fracking and drilling have been in the crosshairs for years until now when the apparent direct hit was landed.
Demanding more natural gas development restrictions, Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network described the recent permanent ban as a “major victory.”
“We clearly still have further to go,” said van Rossum. “The ban on the actual fracking is irreplaceability important, but we also need a permanent ban that prevents the fracking industry from using our watershed as a dumping ground…and that prohibits it from sapping our precious waters.”
Coming to the aid of natural-gas development, MSC’s Callahan expressed great concern for the future of Pennsylvania and questioned Governor Wolf’s loyalty. Accusing him of siding with others and their out-of-state agendas, Callahan proclaimed the ban supported by the Pennsylvania governor harms the working-class citizens residing in his state.
With continued differences in opinion and personal agendas being promoted, this current ban bestowed by the Delaware River Basin Commission is just the beginning of additional battles to be had. Only science and a sound mind will serve as the catalyst in educated and unbiased discussions. Until then, no lasting and relevant solution will be manufactured and accepted.
Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]