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Obama in the Crosshairs Again on DRBC Vote To Lift Fracking Moratorium

Obama Swing Vote on Delaware River Basin Commission Nov. 21 Vote

Lenape Chief Chuck "Gentle Moon" DeMund (standing) and 350.org regional representative demand that Gov. Christie and President Obama "Don't Drill the Delaware" at Trenton State House news conference today

Lenape Chief Chuck “Gentle Moon” DeMund (standing) and 350.org regional representative demand that Gov. Christie and President Obama “Don’t Drill the Delaware” at Trenton State House news conference today

[Update: 11/15/11 – Bob Jordan of the Asbury Park Press covers the story: Groups push for state fracking ban. But Obama is the swing vote, not Christie. NY and Delaware are likely to oppose. PA Gov. and Christie already have openly supported fracking. Just like the Keytone tar sands pipeline, all forms of “extreme carbon energy” must be stopped, or as Jim Hansen says: “it’s game over for the climate” – end update.]

Having just kicked the can down the road on the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project by postponing a decision until after the 2012 election (only after over 12,000 activists surrounded the White House), President Obama is again in the cross hairs of environmental advocates.

This time, the issue is the Delaware River Basin Commission’s vote to lift the current moratorium on fracking in the 4 state Delaware river watershed. Lifting the moratorium would allow drilling of up to 20,000 new gas wells using the controversial fracking technology.

Today, environmental groups held press conferences in the 4 DRBC member states, to highlight the importance of the Nov. 21 DRBC vote. They focused on Governors (we’ve previously reported that NJ Gov. Christie supports fracking and is likely to vote to lift the moratorium on Nov. 21. That issue is a foregone conclusion, especially in light of the Gov.’s veto of the “symbolic” NJ fracking ban bill.)

But, it looks like the Obama federal vote on the DRBC may determine the outcome.

The DRBC States of NY and Delaware are likely to oppose lifting the moratorium, while Pa and NJ will support that move. That makes Obama the decider:

According to Delaware new reports (see: Fracking critics urge officials to block Delaware basin gas development):

Campaigners are hopeful that New York Governor and Democrat, Andrew Cuomo will also vote against fracking given his state’s current moratorium on the industry.

A “yes” vote is expected from Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a strong supporter of the gas industry, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also a Republican, who in August vetoed a bill that would have permanently banned fracking in his state.

If the governors’ votes are an even split, it will fall to the Army Corps of Engineers to be the swing vote, and it may avoid doing that given public concern over fracking in an election year, said Bloom.

“The Obama Administration may not want to be the swing vote that allows fracking” she said.

Mr. Smtih goes to Trenton - "young people are pissed off" about tracking

Mr. Smith goes to Trenton – “young people are pissed off” about fracking

But, as we previously reported, Obama assigned the US Army Corps as the lead federal voice on the DRBC, forcing EPA to stand down and take a back seat. We wrote:

The New York Times reports today that Obama backs the frack and wants DRBC to back down. Not surprisingly, just as we predicted, EPA is invisible and the Administration’s position is controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers (the NY Times wrote):

Obama Admin Wants Study but Backs Northeast Shale Drilling

Published: December 14, 2010

The Obama administration supports a full study of the effects of gas drilling in the watershed that provides drinking water for Philadelphia and New York City, but it doesn’t want to wait until it’s finished for drilling to begin.

Gen. Peter”Duke” DeLuca of the Army Corps of Engineers outlined the position in a letter(pdf) written to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and released today.

The letter offers the first indication of the administration’s position on gas drilling in the Northeast since the day after the Nov. 2 midterm election when President Obama highlighted gas drilling as a potential area of common ground with Republicans (Greenwire, Nov. 4).

DeLuca, the Army Corps’ North Atlantic division engineer, is the federal representative on the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is developing regulations for gas drilling in eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

Like we said (long before Occupy Wall Street and the 350.org White House protest on Keystone XL) (see: Obama backs the frack.

Activists must abandon any false hope that Lisa Jackson or Democrats are supporting the environment and ramp up protest and direct action. Institutions have failed us.

But that was then and this is now – we will see if the 350.org direct action tactics on the Keystone XL were effective, or whether Obama merely delayed, ducked, and dodged political accountability (we suspect the later).

This may get interesting.

[Update: Because they faced some critical and skeptical questions about issues regarding bans and moratoria, I spoke with reporters and advocates after the press conferencece to make two suggestions:

1) The DRBC imposed the current moratorium, not some tree huggers;

2) the reason that the “Haliburton loopholes” were drafted by the oil & gas industry was because fracking would have been banned under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s EPA Underground Injection Control (UIC) program – here are applicable EPA UIC regs: 40 CFR Part 144

Moratoria and bans are NOT radical – they are current law.

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