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A news magazine about the Delaware River and the people who use it.

No fracking in the Delaware River Basin

Or, that seems the likely outcome of the proposed regulations issued -- not passed -- today by the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is the government body charged with the care of the waters of the Delaware River and its watershed.

The fracking issue was resolved for many states and municipalities years ago when the ability to get at the gas trapped in rock formations was developed, and the price that gas was able to fetch was high enough to cover the cost.

When the issue first came before the DRBC, it studied it and held public hearings on it and then shelved the decision in 2010.

Until now.

But, as with so much that involves the DRBC, it gets complicated.

First new regulations have to be developed. Today's big news is that the DRBC's new regulations have framed the discussion NOT to allow fracking. The regulation could have been framed as allowing fracking.

But this is only the first step. Now there will be public hearings and then a vote by the commission members: representatives of the governors of the four states that border the Delaware -- New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The fifth member of the commission is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It represents the federal government and it votes according to the wishes of the present occupant of the White House.

Now, it's possible that the USACE could vote against this regulation (and for fracking) but even if it does, it seems likely that the regulation would withstand their negative vote. New York has banned fracking, Governor Wolfe of Pennsylvania has stated his opposition to fracking in the watershed. The regulation would only need the support of either New Jersey or Delaware to pass. In this instance only a majority vote is needed to pass the regulation.

So, it seems likely that there will be no fracking allowed in the Delaware watershed.

But there were two other regulations presented today that could affect the Delaware. One is about taking Delaware River water to use in the fracking process. The other is about taking the fracked water and allowing it in the Delaware or the watershed.

If you're interested in these later regulations, you should read up on them here: http://www.state.nj.us/…/p…/notice_hydraulic-fracturing.html

It's clear, at least to my reading of the regulations and from the explanations provided, that the DRBC isn't exactly enthused about either the taking of water for fracking or allowing that water in the basin. There are concerns about the volume of water that is used in the fracking process, there are also significant concerns about taking that fracked water back into the water supply. The regulation demands that fracked water be treated at specialized facilities referred to by the Environmental Protection Agency as a centralized waste treatment facility.

Although the regulations on the import and export of Delaware River water presented today for public review suggest a strict control on those waters by the DRBC, that they would be allowed at all is likely to infuriate those with environmental concerns.

Equally likely, that the DRBC is contemplating regulations that would ban fracking is going to raise the hackles of a different community.

It will make for a highly energized review process. Keep track of it at the DRBC website: 
http://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/natural/

If you want to attend one of the public hearings, these were announced today:

• January 23, 2018: 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Performing Arts & Recreation Center (PARC) Pavilion at the Ladore Camp, Retreat and Conference Center, 287 Owego Turnpike, Waymart, PA 18472; Register to attend:http://bit.ly/2ApxOB1

• January 23, 2018: 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Performing Arts & Recreation Center (PARC) Pavilion at the Ladore Camp, Retreat and Conference Center, 287 Owego Turnpike, Waymart, PA 18472; Register to attend:http://bit.ly/2AgHtsV

• January 25, 2018: 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Airport, 4509 Island Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19153; Register to attend: http://bit.ly/2AIPh7P 

• January 25, 2018: 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Philadelphia Airport, 4509 Island Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19153; Register to attend: http://bit.ly/2ip6Pyn

About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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