ALERT — To Frack (Or Not) the Delaware River Watershed

by Duane Nichols on February 24, 2021

What we know about the upcoming vote to decide the fate of fracking in the Delaware River

From an Article by Kathryne Rubright, Pocono Record, February 23, 2021

The Delaware River Basin Commission will vote Thursday on a proposal that would ban high volume hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas extraction process also known as fracking, in the watershed.

The regulations proposed in 2017 would not ban the exportation of water for fracking elsewhere, or the importation of fracking wastewater, but the activities would be subject to DRBC review. Additionally, “new conditions, including stringent treatment and discharge requirements” would be imposed on wastewater, the DRBC said in an FAQ document regarding the proposed regulations.

The basin drains 13,539 square miles, about half of which is in Pennsylvania. This includes all of Bucks, Delaware, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Pike counties and parts of Berks, Carbon, Chester, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Schuylkill and Wayne counties.

The fracking ban would affect the Pocono region and other northeastern counties sitting entirely or partly over Marcellus Shale: Carbon, Monroe, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Schuylkill and Wayne.

High volume hydraulic fracturing “presents risks, vulnerabilities and impacts to the quality and quantity of surface and ground water resources,” the DRBC says, citing, among other concerns, the amount of water required to fracture shale and the sometimes-unknown nature of chemicals added to that water.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a natural gas industry group, has noted its members disclose chemical information via the registry at

Where does fracking stand now?

The DRBC does not have an official moratorium on fracking, but it did vote in 2010 to put off considering well pad dockets until regulations were adopted.

“Since then, the Commission has not received any applications for projects to be conducted on a well pad site – a situation that has sometimes been referred to as a ‘de facto moratorium,’” according to the FAQ.

Who decides this issue?

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has a seat on the commission, along with Gov. John Carney of Delaware, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, all Democrats.

Brigadier General Thomas J. Tickner, commander and division engineer of the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the federal representative.

Wolf, Carney and Murphy have previously expressed support for fully banning fracking in the Delaware River basin. New York has already banned fracking.

From 2019: Gov. Wolf says he supports full fracking ban in Delaware River basin

The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition is expecting a vote to ban fracking in the basin, but would prefer a fuller measure, saying it has “fiercely opposed the halfway measure of banning fracking but allowing frack wastewater to be dumped in the river and water to be exported and consumed to spur fracking.”

Some landowners in the watershed have questioned the DRBC’s authority to prevent them from profiting from natural gas under their property. The proposed rules note that the commission was given authority to control pollution by the compact that established it in 1961.

How to watch or listen to the meeting —

The meeting will be conducted at 10:30 a.m. Thursday on Zoom at this link: The meeting requires an ID (957 5916 5248) and a passcode (528513).

It will also be livestreamed on the DRBC YouTube channel:

Several phone numbers are available for dialing in, including 929-205-6099. See the DRBC’s meeting notice at

The meeting does not include time for members of the public to make comments. Public input was gathered at six public hearings in 2018 and through an online submission form.

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