DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY BASIN — The proposed rules on fracking byproducts passed by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on December 7 may fall short of the full fracking ban for which …
DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY BASIN — The proposed rules on fracking byproducts passed by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on December 7 may fall short of the full fracking ban for which advocates had hoped.
The DRBC passed regulations banning fracking in the Delaware River Valley Basin (the basin) in February of 2021. It proposed a set of regulations to govern fracking-related activities in the basin in October of that year.
The proposed rules (as released in October) discourage, limit or place conditions on the exportation of water from the basin and the importation of wastewater into the basin. They provide for the exportation of basin water (subject to DRBC approval) if it will serve a straddled or adjacent public water system; if it is required on a temporary, short-term or emergency basis to meet public health and safety needs; or if it is an exportation of wastewater. The proposed rules also prohibit the discharge of wastewater from fracking to the waters or lands within the basin.
Public comments were accepted on the proposed regulations until February 28, 2022. The DRBC states that it received oral public comment from 73 individuals and 2,388 written submissions, and that many of the submissions included multiple comments. The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition, an advocacy organization, claims that nearly 12,000 individual people submitted comments.
The DRBC made several changes based on careful deliberation and the public comments, said Pam Bush, an attorney and regional planner with the DRBC, speaking at the December 7 meeting. It clarified that a sponsor may be eligible to export wastewater from the basin if that wastewater will go to a straddled or adjacent public wastewater collection system, or (if it cannot be lawfully discharged to such) that it may be exported for treatment, disposal or both at a lawfully approved waste management facility. It clarified as well that basin water could only be exported to serve public health and safety needs.
"As the commission makes explicit… an application for exportation of water to serve HVHF [high volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"] activities will not meet these threshold criteria for review of exported water or wastewater," said Bush.
The DRBC clarified as well its definition of discharge, an action prohibited by its proposed regulations: "Discharge of wastewater from HVHF and HVHF-related activities is an intentional or unintentional action or omission resulting in the releasing, spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, spreading, spraying, injecting, leaching, dumping, or disposing of such wastewater to waters or land within the basin, and including the abandonment or discarding of barrels, containers, and other receptacles containing such wastewater."
The DRBC voted 4-0 to approve the regulations, with the federal government representative abstaining.
Advocacy organizations had called for a full ban on fracking and fracking-adjacent activities in the Delaware River basin in the lead-up to the December 7 meeting. Representatives of those organizations who spoke at that meeting did not say whether the DRBC's final rules achieved that goal; the DRBC had not provided the text of its resolution in advance of the meeting, and the representatives present said they needed time to fully review that text.
Advocates did express concerns that the DRBC's resolution fell short of a clear ban on fracking.
"It will take time to review the modifications you've offered to the DRBC rules today… It sounds like some of them might be significant and meaningful, but in what ways is really difficult for us to determine without a thorough and comprehensive review," said Tracy Carluccio, speaking on behalf of the Delaware Riverkeeper and the Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition. "As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and we will be digging in."
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