Potential Permanent Fracking Ban May Have Big Impact in PA

Hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking,” as it has come to be known – is a hot topic these days. The fracking process, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground in an attempt to crack underlying rock to free oil and gas reserves, has become popular over the past decade in the Appalachia or “Marcellus Shale” region. More recently, however, there’s been contentious debate between the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Delaware River Basin Commission (“Commission”) regarding drilling in the Delaware Watershed.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Commission, which consists of the governors of the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware) plus an additional member (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Atlantic Division) serving as a federal representative, initially voted for a temporary ban back in 2010, but “took another step Thursday toward permanently banning natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, despite industry opposition.”

The primary concern of the Commission is the long-term health and safety of the residents of the Delaware Watershed region, which largely consists of metropolitan Philadelphia and New York City. The Commission wants to prevent drilling companies from syphoning water from the basin, and doesn’t want wastewater from the fracking process to be deposited back into streams and tributaries that provide residential drinking water because of the potential cancer risk. Conversely, though, the Marcellus Shale Coalition believes that by banning drilling, it prevents individual private owners from cultivating their property as they choose, which the Coalition sees as having negative ramifications on the region’s economy, according to AP.

With the change of administration in New Jersey, which initially opposed the temporary ban back in 2010, it’s now expected that all basin members are in favor of a permanent ban. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see what comes of the hearings and public comment period scheduled for January and February of 2018, respectively. Stay tuned.

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