Ongoing Issues

Natural Gas Development

There is a moratorium on natural gas drilling/fracking and water withdrawals in the Delaware River Watershed, enacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in May 2010, by unanimous vote of the Commission's voting members - representatives of the Governors of Pennsylvania. New York, New Jersey and Delaware and President Obama's representative, the Army Corps of Engineers. When natural gas regulations were proposed by the DRBC with a close of public comment in April 2011, the public became engaged in a big way. Breaking all previous records for public input, 69,000 comments were submitted to the DRBC, most calling for the proposed rules to be scrapped because they were too weak and narrow and advocating for a comprehensive environmental impact analysis of what gas development would do to the Watershed and the 17 million people and almost 13,000 square miles of ecosystem that rely on the health and abundance of the Delaware River Watershed for water supply and habitat. In November 2011 the moratorium was almost lifted and the rules almost adopted but public pressure and the announcement of Gov. Markell of Delaware and the head of New York's Dept. of Environmental Conservation that they would not vote to approve the rules, caused the meeting to be cancelled and the rules to be sent back to the drawing board because there was not an assured majority to approve the lifting of the moratorium. As the DRBC continues to consider allowing drilling and fracking, the watershed health hangs precariously in the balance. Delaware Riverkeeper Network and many groups representing hundreds of thousands of members have called for a permanent ban on gas development in the Watershed since the dangerous practices involved are not compatible with maintaining and sustaining the water resources and ecosystems of the Delaware River Watershed.

The environmental impacts of natural gas drilling include water quantity (on average 5 millions gallons of water depleted/consumed per well), water quality (hydrofracking chemicals, radioactive and highly toxic wastewater, drilling muds and cuttings, waste solids and residuals that results from the well development process), stormwater runoff (nonpoint source pollution, erosion, stream degradation), habitat and ecosystem destruction and disruption, air quality (pollution from methane and other gases, VOCs and other volatile materials, silica, particulates, etc.) noise and light pollution, and community/cultural, scenic and quality of life impacts. Inadequate regulation of the industry at every level allows these impacts to occur, burdening communities and the environment. 

The practices required to extract natural gas are intrinsically polluting, allowing our aquifers and the environment to be permanently degraded, in violation of our environmental rights. The only way to avoid these negative impacts is to convert our energy systems away from these dirty fossil fuels and towards clean, sustainable, and renewable energy sources and energy efficiency policies.

As shale gas drilling and development inches closer to encroaching on the Delaware River Watershed, public concerns are growing for the safety of water supplies, air quality, the natural environment and communities that will be affected. The 17 million people who rely on the Delaware River for water, including New York City, Philadelphia and millions of residents of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware will all be directly effected if the water resources of the high quality upstream River is degraded. The practices that are used by the gas industry to extract and develop shale gas involve dangerous techniques such as hydraulic fracturing that inject chemicals--most of them hazardous, toxic and/or carcinogenic--and millions of gallons of water into each gas well.

The polluted flowback that erupts back up is contaminated with additional pollutants from the deep geology, such as radioactive materials, and is stored in large open pits on the well site until it is trucked away to a wastewater plant or injected into the deep wells (even though there are not enough facilities to handle the wastewater and earthquakes in Ohio where most of the injection wells are located have been shut down until further study, this highly toxic waste continues to be produced every day throughout the Marcellus and Utica shales). Well sites have huge well pads, usually over 5 acres, containing 6, 10, even 15 gas wells each; miles of roads and gas pipelines are begin built; and  forests, farms, and rural communities are being transformed into urban, industrial conditions.

Wells can even be drilled in floodplains in both NY and PA. Communities across Pennsylvania where gas drilling is charging ahead at a frenzied pace are experiencing pollution incidents, accidents, gas well blowouts, frack pit leaks, water well contamination, stream degradation and ruined farms and towns. Join with the growing number of people who want to take action to defend our region from the degradation of shale gas drilling. We can't let this happen here--we cannot sacrifice our water and environment to gas companies.Look at our Learn More column to the right for the many scientific studies, technical reports, articles, papers, and other educational tools that are available to delve in to this issue. Information is power and an informed public is our best defense. People and communities are organizing and fighting back, learn how to get involved.

Check to see if there is any URGENT ACTION needed.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has published (September 2015) a new guidebook, Defending the Environmental Rights of Pennsylvania  Communities from Shale Gas Development, to provide support and guidance to elected officials, government entities, and residents working at the municipal level to protect the environment and community resources from shale gas development.

Download the full report.
Download a reduced size PDF.
Front Matter
Section 1 - General Guidance for Municipalities on the Environmental Rights Amendment
Section 2 - What Municipalities Can Do
Section 3 - Municipal Strategies: Ordinances to Address Local Environmental Conditions
Section 4 - Municipal Strategies: What to Look for in an Ordinance
Section 5 - Municipal Strategies: Adopting a Resolution
Appendix A - Sample Riparian Ordinance
Appendix B - Private Well Water Supply Testing Ordinance
Appendix C - Municipal Planning and Site Restoration Considerations
Appendix D - Frequently Asked Questions: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision on Act 13 and Zoning

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