Drilling in the Delaware River Basin

Delaware River Basin and Fracking

The Delaware River Basin is a 13,539 square mile territory that stretches from New York’s Delaware County south to Delaware Bay and includes much of Sullivan County in New York State. Over 15,000,000 people rely on the waters of the Delaware River Basin for drinking, agricultural and industrial use. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy and the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York signed a compact with the force of law to create a regional body to manage the Delaware River and the land through which it runs. It was the first time the federal government and a group of states joined to oversee a river basin.

The DRBC mission includes: oversight of the basin’s water quality and sources of pollution, ground and surface water quantity, water demands, withdrawals, allocations, conservation, protected areas and drought management.

The DRBC is now in the process of creating regulations under which gas drilling using hydrofracking can be done. Up to 20,000 gas wells are being proposed for the region. The DRBC has created regulations without doing a study of the full environmental impact of drilling or the cumulative impact of so many wells.

Brig. Gen. Peter “Duke’ DeLuca, who is the federal representative on the DRBC has justified moving ahead without increased study so as not to delay the economic boost he says drilling could bring. However, as Rep. Hinchey (D-NY) has challenged him, the DRBC’s mission is the environment, not the economy. Hinchey has said, “… there is no legislative authorization for the DRBC that supports such an interpretation,” the DRBC’s role is to “prohibit and control pollution of the waters of the basin.”

Catskill Mountainkeeper, with The Open Space Institute, Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Norcross Wildlife Foundation and the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition sponsored a study by the Urban Design Lab of Columbia University titled, Hancock & The Marcellus Shale: Visioning the Impacts of Natural Gas Extraction Along the Upper Delaware.  The study evaluates and visualizes the impacts on the local economy and environment of natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed.

The Town of Hancock, New York was picked to study because 25% of the land area has been leased for drilling. Using Hancock as a case study, this research aims to provide a concise report on the local consequences of natural gas extraction from Marcellus Shale. The team focused on the gaps in local awareness of the comprehensive long-term impacts to the landscape and existing municipal infrastructure.

The report concludes that natural gas extraction has significant impacts on the environment and potential impacts on the local and downstream water supplies.  Gas well sites require about five acres of farm or forestland cleared and dedicated to drilling operations, considerably altering the landscape.  Drill sites result in increased truck and construction traffic on local roads, thereby adding to the stress on infrastructure across the region.  Drilling operations and related vehicle traffic result in significant increases in air, noise and light pollution, particularly for formerly remote, rural areas.  Further, the process of hydraulic fracturing results in large volumes of wastewater, of which about a third is contaminated and requires specialized treatment.  Local citizens and downstream inhabitants are concerned that improper handling of wastewater could result in the contamination of regional water supplies.

Based on extensive study and scientific evidence, Catskill Mountainkeeper has called for a ban on fracking. We are also working within the existing regulatory process in New York to raise critical issues, widen the discussion of the impacts of drilling, and expand the options available to protect the public.

Click here for more on fracking.