On Wednesday, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to begin the rule making process that could lead to a fracking ban in parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Commission, which regulates the Delaware River watershed and is comprised of members from each of the above states and a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now has until November 30 to draft its proposal.
The Delaware River watershed encompasses parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and provides drinking water to millions of people in the four states. It also encompasses territory rich in oil and gas, particularly in Northeast Pennsylvania. The proximity of the two interests—drinking water and oil and gas—has produced longstanding debate over the region’s use.
On Wednesday, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware voted to begin the rule making process. New Jersey abstained, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers voted against the process. The 3-1-1 result is enough for consideration of a ban, and Commission staff will set to work on a proposal, which ultimately will be subject to public comment and hearings.
Industry decried the Commission’s decision, and has long questioned the Commission’s authority to regulate the region’s oil and gas. Litigation pending in the federal Third Circuit could address the Commission’s powers concerning resource development. In the meantime, industry considers the proposal unnecessarily duplicative of federal and state efforts already making the area safe for development.
The region has been under a fracking moratorium since 2010, when the Commission began exploring fracking’s impacts on the area. Any ban is unlikely to take effect until 2018.
For continuing coverage of this and other stories, subscribe to the Hydraulic Fracking Blog.