Environment America Praises Plan to Ban Fracking near Delaware River, Says Questions Remain on Toxic Wastewater Disposal

Media Contacts

Environment America Research & Policy Center

Late yesterday, regulators released a long-awaited proposal to ban fracking in the Delaware River watershed, which provides drinking water to 15 million people.  Environment America and its state affiliates hailed the proposed ban as a key step to protect the Delaware from the hazards of dirty drilling, even as the groups examine what further action is needed on issues like toxic wastewater disposal.

“The Delaware River is the backbone to the region,” noted Environment America’s Clean Water Campaign Director Megan DeSmedt. “Residents and businesses are inextricably tied to the Delaware River, and banning fracking is a crucial step to protect it now and for future generations.” 

Yesterday, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) released draft regulations to permanently ban the oil and gas extraction process known as fracking.  Environment America and its state affiliates in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York (PennEnvironment, Environment New Jersey, and Environment New York, respectively) have been working for over a decade to build public support to keep fracking away from the Delaware River.  The groups praised the leadership of Governors Wolf, Carney, and Cuomo, in supporting the DRBC’s plan to ban fracking in the Delaware River watershed.

“This is a watershed moment for protecting this great watershed,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment. “Since this battle started a decade ago, one thing has become crystal clear: the industry has shown that they are either unable or unwilling to comply with basic, common sense environmental laws and safeguards, putting our environment and health at extreme risk, and even breaking the law.”

In addition to fracking itself, however, water withdrawals and disposal of toxic fracking wastewater could damage the Delaware.  Fracking uses millions of gallons of water, and its toxic wastewater or fluids have contaminated water on more than 1,000 occasions across the country.  Experts are still reviewing the details of the DRBC proposal to determine if – and to what extent – it will truly protect the Delaware River from these serious threats.

“If we’re going to truly protect the Delaware River watershed from all of fracking’s harmful effects, we must also ban fracking wastewater from being imported into the watershed or water withdrawals from the Delaware River to be used in the fracking process,” said Doug O’Malley, Director for Environment New Jersey. “These activities pose a serious threat to water quality and the ecological health of the basin and must not be allowed.”

“We are excited to see some movement towards preventing water withdrawals and fracking wastewater storage in the basin,” added DeSmedt.  “The devil will be in the details of those steps to see how much work there is left to be done.”

“Expanding and implementing this ban on fracking and fracking activities is crucial for the residents of New York,” stated Heather Leibowitz Director of Environment New York. “Millions of New Yorkers rely on the Delaware River for our drinking water supply—we have to guarantee that we protect this source water from the pollution threats posed by fracking, and today’s announcement is a crucial step forward in ensuring that guarantee.”

“Local residents and the general public have sent a message to DRBC and our elected officials for the past ten years: it is crucial we protect the Delaware River basin from this dangerous practice that could do irreparable harm to this great river,” stated DeSmedt. “It’s not a coincidence that the largest, most active public comment period in DRBC history was originally around proposals to protect the Delaware River from fracking—that speaks volumes to the public’s concern about this issue.”

Now that the DRBC has issued their draft regulations to ban fracking, there will be a public comment period lasting until February 28th, 2018 to hear input from the public, including four public hearings in January.