The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), has issued drilling and fracking rules against the will of New York State, New York City, Philadelphia, the National Park Service, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, many elected officials, and thousands of citizens.
The Commission is rushing these rules under unrelenting pressure from the industry and from officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, who are pushing to fast track the rules and lift the current gas drilling moratorium in the Delaware River Basin Watershed, even though they do not fully understand the environmental ramifications of doing so. We cannot let this happen! Please submit comments today to the DRBC.
The most effective way to have your voice heard is to submit a separate comment for each "single issue" you wish to address. It is advised that – along with your personal views – you should quote science, experts and facts. We encourage you to use Riverkeeper’s Fractured Communities as a source in formulating your comments.
In addition to pushing for insufficient rules, the DRBC is bypassing the crucial aspect of the public’s voice in the process. As it currently stands, the public’s opportunity to have input into the rulemaking is inadequate and more hearings and a longer comment period is needed to provide adequate time to review & digest the proposed rules; the public needs to be involved!
You may submit as many single-issue comments as you feel is necessary. All comments must be received by March 16, 2011.
Suggested Highlights for Your Comments, Letters, or Testimony to DRBC:
• The draft rules do not address the cumulative impacts of water withdrawal and well development; there is no method to control the environmental toll that natural gas drilling and water depletion will take on the land, streams, and River. There are no spacing requirements for the tens of thousands of wells expected that would limit how many wells can be drilled and how close they can be to each other, facilitating the conversion to an industrial landscape. How will the loss of clean, freshwater flows from the headwaters of the River and the destruction of the now 89% forested Upper Delaware affect water quality, clean drinking water, habitats and ecological needs downstream?
• The draft rules do not place any restrictions on the chemicals that drillers can use to drill and hydraulically fracture gas wells. Considering the hundreds of dangerous chemicals that are used, many of them carcinogenic and hazardous, and the fact that diesel fuel, a toxic substance, is being used in some areas to stimulate gas extraction, the DRBC’s "hands off" approach to this central aspect which they could rightfully regulate is irresponsible. Why isn’t the DRBC prohibiting the use of contaminants in gas extraction processes or at least waiting for the EPA to finish its study of hydraulic fracturing practices to protect drinking water?
• The draft rules do not prescribe wastewater standards for all of the specific constituents of gas drilling wastewater that would require the removal of all toxic substances but rather require a treatability analysis that is poorly defined, does not address the contaminants used in hydraulic fracturing and most of the dangerous constituents in flowback produced by hydraulic fracturing and will lead to discharge of pollutants. How can the DRBC move ahead without controlling this toxic wastewater, described by the U.S. Department of Energy as 10 times more toxic than offshore oil well wastewater?
• The draft rules rely on weak State regulations in many areas such as stormwater management (much gas well development is largely exempted), drilling and casing construction and safety (substandard State requirements in PA), air emission controls (PA exempts gas wells from air standards), and inadequate setbacks and floodplain protection (both NY and PA do not have large enough buffers nor adequately protective no-drill safety areas; homes, public buildings, public roads, public water supply wells and domestic water supply wells are all left out of DRBC oversight and relegated to inadequate state setbacks that have resulted in pollution incidents from gas drilling throughout Pennsylvania). This puts people and their health at risk, increases the likelihood of pollution incidents, will foul air, kill aquatic species, and degrade the exceptional water quality of the River and its tributaries.
• While a 500 foot setback of gas well pads from water bodies, wetlands, surface water supply intakes and water supply reservoirs and no siting of well pads in the DRBC’s defined “flood hazard area” is proposed and is stricter than State requirements, stricter requirements are still needed. Setbacks should be based on a minimum 300 foot buffer beyond the floodplain/flood hazard area as defined by riparian soils to assure adequate protection for streams and to prevent flood damages. Water supply intakes and reservoirs need protection based on drainage patterns and the condition of the setback area in order to provide needed buffering; depending on conditions such as slope and vegetation, 500 feet may provide no protection. Water supplies, floodplain protection, and stream setbacks need to be set based on site specific analysis and require mandated management measures.
• The rules would allow for fast track approvals (Approval by Rule) by the Executive Director without public input for much of the gas drilling and some water withdrawals. This loophole will lead to the "death of a thousand cuts". How can DRBC allow this when they’re supposed to maintain the River’s exceptional quality?
• The public comment period should be extended for another 120 days and at least one Hearing held in every state (3 in PA because of the length of the Watershed), and in New York City and Philadelphia, where major populations drink Delaware River water.
• Verbal testimony is key to the input process, and three hearings will not be at all sufficient to allow input from the affected public. In addition, public hearings should be held at geographically accessible and diverse locations. There should be at least one public hearing in each Basin state: Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, and at least one public hearing in each of the two largest population centers that rely on the Delaware River for water supplies, New York City and Philadelphia. Since Pennsylvania is such a large state, one hearing should be held in the Upper Delaware region, one in the central Watershed area, and one in the southeastern area.