Quietly, the Delaware River Basin Commission Blocks Fracking Water Withdrawals in New York

Delaware River, Pike County (Pennsylvania) - Sullivan County (New York) line, as seen from Roebling Bridge.

With little public attention, two significant decisions came out of a follow up meeting on hydraulic fracturing (video and minutes) held by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates activity around the Delaware River, which serves 15 million people residing in four Northeastern states.

Most newsworthy was the DRBC approval of a proposal put forth by New York State to prohibit water withdrawals for fracking by not accepting permits in its Delaware River headwaters until New York State finalizes its formal draft regulation process. The timeline on final regulations are unclear because the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of its Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), having just extended the comment period due to a huge outpouring of over 13,000 public comments, all of which must be addressed in the final GEIS. New York residents have shown great opposition to fracking, as evidenced by polling and recent public hearings around the state, where the preponderance of testimony came out largely against the controversial practice.

What this fracking water withdrawal exclusion means for New York’s intensively fracked neighbor Pennsylvania has yet to be seen.

The DRBC also gave an anticipated status report on Draft Natural Gas Development Regulations. As if to say, “don’t read anything into this,” the Commissioners offered a noncommittal written statement maintaining that they are still “talking through the issues” and haven’t come to any decisions on next steps.

The backstory to this December 8th DRBC meeting is itself noteworthy, since the much-anticipated  November 21st meeting was canceled even as the Commission was set to vote on new fracking rules that would allow up to 20,000 natural gas wells in the basin. Great public scrutiny was cast on that meeting (which saw an anti-fracking rally staged outside of the building), one that drew hundreds of people despite the cancellation and was claimed as a victory by fracktivists who felt the DRBC didn’t have the votes to pass the regulations.

Much more to come.

(h/t Maya van Rossum and Gasland Facebook)