URGENT: Just Days to Comment on Gas Drilling Regulations for Delaware River Basin
This petition has been closed so we can print and physically deliver the signatures by the deadline at 5PM, Friday, April 15th.
You can still comment online, until midnight, Friday April 15th, by going to this online webform: http://chn.ge/gurwnR
Natural gas drilling, using fracking methods, could soon come to the Delaware River Watershed, where millions of people live in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and New Jersey.
Despite a storm of protest the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) prematurely issued draft natural gas development regulations for the Delaware River Watershed on Dec. 9, 2010. They were asked to wait until a cumulative impact analysis of natural gas development on the Basin’s water resources to be completed. Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying hydraulic fracturing, the stimulation process that is used to access shale gas; the study of the potential impacts on drinking water, public health and the environment is due out in 2012. Further, New York State is reexamining its high volume hydraulic fracturing environmental study and has a ban in place through July 1, 2011. These scientific studies need to be done to inform DRBC regulations to prevent pollution and avoid degradation from gas development. Instead, the DRBC has fast tracked the process.
What’s Up Now: It’s clear the DRBC has jumped the gun because the draft regulations do not address cumulative impacts, do not set limits on gas development, do not institute high enough standards to protect streams and communities and rely heavily on flawed state regulations that are filled with exemptions and loopholes. The mandate of the DRBC is to prevent degradation of the exceptional water quality of the Delaware River but these proposed gas rules do not make drilling safe, will allow water resources to be depleted, water quality and ecosystems to degrade, and do not protect the water supply for 15 million people.
To learn about what’s happening with current gas development in Pennsylvania and elsewhere a MUST READ is the New York Times series:
Part 1: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?_r=1&hp
Part 2: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/us/02gas.html?_r=2&hp\">
Part 3: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/notice_naturalgas-draftregs.htm.
I am concerned about my drinking water, the Wild and Scenic Delaware, and the future of the Watershed. Some of my specific concerns about the draft rules are:
No limits on how many wells can be drilled and how closely they can be spaced from each other; this means the drillers are in control of how intensely the Watershed is developed (they are serving their bottom line), not the DRBC (who is charged with protecting water resources).
Much gas well development will occur without the planning you require for more than 5 well pads or companies who have leaseholdings of 3200 acres or more. At 10-12 wells per pad, 50 to 60 gas wells can be drilled without any plan oversight and variances, exemptions and limited expansions could make matters worse. Even where natural gas development plans are required, it is not clear how the planning will limit adverse environmental impacts nor is it clear how cumulative analyses can be made from these plans to avoid large scale degradation.
You do not restrict the dangerous chemicals that will be used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing. You require operators to tell you what they are using on site and to do some sampling, but you do not guarantee public disclosure of all of the chemicals they will use and you do not propose to remove all of these chemicals in wastewater treatment. Some carcinogens you are not even testing for. You should consult TEDX at http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/chemicals.multistate.php
You propose to protect flood hazard areas BUT you allow variances so that only floodways, the stream area that carries the bulk of floodwater, are clearly off limits.
You acquiesce to the States in many crucial areas that fatally flaw this rulemaking. These include:
stormwater management (PA and federal government largely exempts gas well development);
stream protection (PA exempts gas drilling from Exceptional Value and High Quality stream buffer standards—the best of the best streams in PA); drilling, cementing and well construction (PA’s Chapter 78 is largely substandard in safety); air quality (PA exempts gas wells from air pollution standards); setbacks from homes, public buildings, roads, and public and private water supply wells are all deferred to state standards (PA and NY have minimal, inadequate setback standards); DRBC and the States measure setbacks from the well pad, not the horizontal well bore (where pollution can occur); centralized wastewater impoundments are allowed and left to state regulations despite your finding that open waste pits on well sites are too dangerous and require closed tank systems to capture all flowback.
Approval by Rule will allow fast track approval of gas drilling and some water withdrawals, with no opportunity for public comment and input. Why does DRBC want to allow a rush to drill when less oversight has led to pollution and accidents throughout the Marcellus shale fairway (PA 2010 violations=2,486; wells drilled in 2010=2,755)?
We need more time to participate in the rulemaking process. DRBC needs to extend the public comment period by at least another 120 days and hold Hearings in New York City, Philadelphia, and more Hearings close to where people live in PA. We care deeply about our future and the health of the Delaware River. Please let us take part in this historic rulemaking that will shape the future of our River and Watershed by expanding the public comment opportunities.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this crucial rulemaking. I ask that, after the rulemaking closes, you hold the rules in abeyance until the scientific studies are done so that information can inform regulations that will prevent pollution and avoid degradation. Aquifer and water resource pollution and depletion lasts hundreds of years and cannot ever be fully cleaned up.
Doesn’t it make sense to take a little time to make the right decisions now, before rushing ahead?