Delaware River Basin Commission
Determines Natural Gas Impacts to be Substantial
And in Need of Regulation
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has made an important determination regarding the regulation of natural gas projects in the Delaware River Watershed. The Watershed drains parts of four states, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale is expected to occur primarily in the Upper and Middle Delaware River regions in Pennsylvania and New York. Projections show that the richest deposits of shale gas may underlay Wayne County in Pennsylvania and Delaware and Sullivan Counties in New York.
Carol Collier, the Executive Director of the DRBC, announced on May 19 that natural gas drillers must apply and receive DRBC approval before beginning any gas extraction project in shale formations that are located in Special Protection Waters. This applies to gas wells, water withdrawals and discharges of wastewater related to all shale gas projects. All aspects of gas drilling will be reviewed such as the pad, the well, and on site pits for possible direct and nonpoint source pollution impacts. Any well that will be hydraulically fractured, whether vertical or horizontal, will be reviewed. The order applies regardless of the size of the undertaking, setting aside DRBC’s usual review thresholds due to the determination that natural gas projects, individually or cumulatively, will have a substantial impact on the River’s water resources.
The Wild and Scenic Delaware River is designated as Special Protection Waters by the DRBC due to exceptionally high water quality and outstanding natural resources. The anti-degradation program is based on protecting those resources and maintaining the River’s high water quality. The entire drainage area that flows to the nontidal Delaware River, which extends from Hancock NY to Trenton NJ, is designated as SPW.
The Executive Director determination lays out the regulatory requirements that each applicant will have to follow while regulations that apply specifically to natural gas extraction are developed. The rulemaking procedures are lengthy and will involve a robust public process.
The DRBC’s natural gas extraction determination is a crucial decision that puts in place a mechanism to protect the Delaware River and the water supply for 15 million people from the harmful effects of natural gas extraction and development. Both Pennsylvania and New York do not have adequate regulations in place to prevent the degradation that is expected to accompany the natural gas industry with the advent of shale gas. The DRBC’s regulatory oversight will be crucial to adequately protect the Delaware River Watershed, which supplies drinking water to approximately 15 million people.
“As natural gas drilling is gearing up here, this is a critical time for the Delaware River Watershed. The DRBC’s determination that natural gas extraction will have substantial impacts on the River’s Special Protection Waters is the right decision at the right time, especially considering the lack of adequate protection from Pennsylvania and New York’s regulatory scheme”, said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
300 Pond Street, 2nd Floor
Bristol, PA 19007
Phone: 215 369 1188 ext 104
Fax: 215 369 1181