Home > Uncategorized > New DRBC Rules Would Rescind Current Moratorium and Open The Door To Fracking In The Delaware Basin

New DRBC Rules Would Rescind Current Moratorium and Open The Door To Fracking In The Delaware Basin

DRBC likely to allow fracking in Pennsylvania and ban it in New York

[Update below]

I am on the road and don’t have time to adequately document this post, but felt compelled to post a quick note because the environmental community and the media got the story totally wrong and exactly backwards.

The press is falsely reporting that DRBC acted to ban fracking and the environmentalists agree that the DRBC will ban fracking and merely allow disposal of wastewater in the basin from fracking outside the basin.

A NJ Spotlight headline screamed that “DRBC Acts To Ban Fracking In the Delaware Basin”.

That headline is factually false on two grounds.

First, DRBC did NOT “act”.

Here’s DRBC’s own draft Resolution – note that DRBC merely directed staff to initiate rulemaking and postponed formal “action” until November 30, 2017:

Now therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the Delaware River Basin Commission that:

1. No later than November 30, 2017, the Executive Director shall prepare and publish for public comment a revised set of draft regulations to address certain natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin. (emphasis mine)

2. The draft regulations directed by this Resolution shall include and seek comment on:

a. prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the Basin;

b. provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal and/or discharge of wastewater within the Basin associated with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for the production of natural gas where permitted;

c. regulation of the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.

3. The Executive Director, in consultation with the Commissioners, may also include in the draft regulations other proposed revisions or additions to DRBC rules and regulations.

Second, and more importantly, the DRBC did not direct staff to “ban fracking”. Exactly the opposite is true.

Under current DRBC rules and policy, a basin-wide moratorium is in effect until the DRBC adopts new regulations.

Here is the DRBC Resolution that explains this:

WHEREAS, by Resolution and Order dated December 8, 2010, the Commission postponed the decision on its authority to review natural gas exploratory well activities in shale formations until either the promulgation of final natural gas regulations or the submission of an application;

By deciding to propose and promulgate new rules, the current moratorium is over. By lifting the moratorium, the DRBC is promoting fracking.

The DRBC Resolution specifically directed staff to proposed new regulations related to “natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin”.

Nowhere does the Resolution state that the prohibition would be basin-wide. DRBC staff may recommend location based partial prohibitions, like no fracking within 300 feet of a stream or drinking water source.

In fact, the Resolution, by contrasting New York State’s ban with Pennsylvania’s pro-fracking policy, the DRBC Resolution strongly signals that DRBC will allow fracking to occur in Pennsylvania and prohibit fracking in the New York portion of the basin.

Allowing fracking in Pennsylvania and following NY DEC and banning it in New York State is consistent with DRBC’s longstanding and cowardly policy to defer big decisions – especially land use and economic development decisions  – to the compact States.

Paragraph 2.b. is vague and opens the door to fracking “where permitted”. If the DRBC intended this to apply to the entire basin they would have said so. The fact that DRBC noted that fracking was “permitted” is significant. Fracking is permitted in Pennsylvania.

Similarly, by directing staff to allow inter-basin transfers of water – not just wastewater – the DRBC is opening the door to fracking in the basin (because fracking needs lots of water) and not merely just authorizing wastewater management in the basin from fracking outside the basin:

regulation of the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.

Finally, paragraph #3 clearly opens the door to new rules that allow fracking in the basin:

may also include in the draft regulations other proposed revisions or additions to DRBC rules and regulations.

I haven’t spoken to environmentalists, but assume that they are spinning the Resolution to encourage DRBC to ban fracking basin-wide. Or to cut a deal to ban wastewater basin-wide in exchange for allowing fracking in the Pennsylvania portion of the basin.

But they are playing a very foolish game. False hope is worse that no hope.

Either that, or they are incompetent and simply misread the Resolution.

[Update: 9/14/17NJ Spotlight coverage of yesterday’s DRBC meeting and adoption of the Resolution continues to get the story wrong.

In a completely dishonest, manipulative, and irresponsible move, DRBC Executive Director Tambini perpetuates the misinformation to the public by dodging the policy question entirely:

“People are trying to figure out what the rules are going to say,’’ Tambini said at the packed meeting at Bucks County Community College. “They are not ready yet.’’

The draft rules may not be ready yet, but clearly the DRBC Commissioners and ED Tambini have a clear policy on authorizing fracking in the basin that they are hiding in ambiguous, vague language. Without a clear policy on fracking, staff would not be able to draft rules.

NJ Spotlight and environmentalists continue to misunderstand what the DRBC Resolution actually says and are spinning their own interpretation. Both are getting 2 big issues completely wrong.

The Resolution does not direct staff to draft rules that ban fracking in the entire basin (as is current policy under the moratorium) and therefore the new rules will NOT ban fracking in the entire basin. PERIOD.

The Resolution explicitly directs staff to propose rules that will authorize fracking within the basin.

New rules will lift the current moratorium, which applies in the entire basin.

For a link to the DRBC Resolution and an analysis of what it actually says, see the above:

I posted the above as a comment on NJ Spotlight’s story today. All of my prior comments have been deleted, so I suspect that they will soon delete this one too. ~~~ end update]

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