Push for fracking ban in Delaware River Watershed continues

DELAWARE – The Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition is criticizing new regulations from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The updated rules crack down on fracking, and the import and export of fracking wastewater; however, the Delaware Riverkeeper says they’re not enough to protect the environment.

More Rules, No Ban

In 2010, The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and partner organizations secured a total moratorium on all aspects of the fracking industry within boundaries of the Delaware River Watershed.

“That included the actual fracking operations, as well as the import for treatment, storage, or disposal of toxic frack wastewater, as well as water exports that could allow water to be taken from the basin, and used to support fracking elsewhere,” said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum.

While van Rossum says that was a major win, environmentalists were hoping for a total, and permanent, ban. Fracking operations within the Watershed were officially banned about a year ago, she says. But, now, van Rossum says the focus is shifting to banning the import and export of fracking wastewater.

“The Delaware River Basin Commission chose to put in place stronger protections with regards to the wastewater and the water withdrawals,” said van Rossum. “But, they did not put in place the permanent ban that we need to protect our watershed.”

Looking For Loopholes

Without a total ban, van Rossum and others now worry the fracking industry will take advantage of loopholes in the regulations.

van Rossum says it’s not yet clear what those loopholes may look like. However, she predicts they could come in the form of storing toxic wastewater on land, which could lead to evaporation of those toxins into the air. Or, she says, the fracking industry could use the wastewater in practices like concrete production.

“Every time we bring toxic wastewater into the basin for use in any way, even though we are not going to have a direct discharge to the land or water or injection into deep wells for storage, we are bringing forth the potential for the release of these toxins,” said van Rossum. “We believe that the industry is pulling apart every word of these regulations right now to figure out all the ways that they could find a loophole that they could take advantage of.”

Impacts on Central, Southern Delaware

van Rossum says environmental impacts from fracking could have devastating impacts for coastal communities, like those found in Delaware.

“Some of that is left to be determined now that we have these new regulations that do bring potential for toxic wastewater to be brought into the watershed, and for treatment, storage, disposal, or utilization in some limited, but scary, ways,” said van Rossum. “But, on the other hand, we know that Kent and Sussex Counties are already suffering from the consequences of the climate crisis, and from sea level rise. Anything that we do that helps the fracking industry to perpetuate and to grow, means that the consequences of the climate crisis are going to get worse.”

Looking Ahead

van Rossum says DRBC has already collected evidence that fracking is devastating to the local environment. With that evidence, she says advocates plan to continue their advocacy for a complete ban within the Watershed.

“The fact that they set aside all that evidence that they pulled together is very concerning. On the other hand, what they have also done is amassed a very solid body of evidence that we can continue to utilize in our advocacy to get in place that full, permanent, complete ban,” said van Rossum.

47 ABC WMDT reached out to DRBC for an interview. DRBC says they are not making additional public statements at this time, and referenced their final ruling on the matter.

Categories: Delaware, Environment, Local News