Proposed Guidelines for Marcellus Shale Drilling in Delaware River Basin Must be Strengthened

In response to the Delaware River Basin Commission’s request for comments on proposed regulations of Marcellus Shale drilling, Law Center fellow Jaimee Moore and EJ Director Adam Cutler warned the DRBC that the regulations do too little to protect the fifteen million people who depend on the waters of the Delaware River Basin from the potential dangers of shale drilling.

The proposed regulations do not go far enough. The proposed regulations include no provision for public access to information about the chemicals used in fracking, and the regulations do not require drillers to provide any advance notice of the chemicals they plan to use. They also provide almost no guidance on dealing with wastewater that returns to the surface, which often contains toxic organic compounds, heavy metals, and naturally radioactive materials.

Proposed enforcement of the regulations is also dangerously inadequate. First, the DRBC will rely on the drillers to self-inspect their operations – and even if they do report their own violations, proposed penalties would not be allowed to exceed $1000 per violation, far too little to have a significant impact.

Still, even with stronger regulation, it would be premature to allow drilling operations to move forward. The comments caution the DRBC to keep its moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin in place until the EPA completes a study that will provide data on environmental hazards posed by shale drilling. The DRBC should also conduct research to evaluate the potential cumulative impact of the drilling operations in the Basin, which could number in the thousands.

Read the Law Center’s full comments