DRBC TALKING POINTS
- The Delaware River Basin Commission claims it wants regulations “based on sound scientific principles,” but it doesn’t have a single credible study it can rely on to promulgate regulations that will protect drinking water. At the very least, the DRBC should hold off on formulating regulations until it has had the opportunity to study the ongoing EPA study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water safety that is due to be released in 2012.
- The DRBC’s draft regulations note that gas wells “may have a substantial effect, either individually or cumulatively, on the surface water and groundwater resources of the basin,” yet the DRBC has refused to conduct a cumulative impact study to determine what those effects might be.
- The DRBC does not have the staff to regulate drilling and fracking. The commission has not even been able to prevent drillers from illegally disposing of toxic wastewater that has been brought into the basin from elsewhere.
- It is unrealistic for the DRBC to rely on feckless and overburdened state agencies to enforce its regulations. The NYS Department of Environmental Protection has recently undergone draconian staff reductions, and the PA Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to prevent well blowout, toxic spills, and aquifer contamination in other parts of the state.
- The commission claims that it will rely on New York State and Pennsylvania to administer “natural gas and exploratory well construction and operation standards.” But as the commissioners are well aware, New York has yet to adopt regulations or procedures to govern any aspect of high-volume fracturing, including well construction.
Consequently, in New York, well setbacks from occupied homes, public buildings, public roads, and from public and domestic water supply wells will be based on rules and regulations put in place long before the state began to draft its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. As the New York State Commissioner has already stated, the DRBC should not promulgate hydraulic fracturing regulations before it has seen, and analyzed, the regulatory package being developed in Albany.
- The draft regulations note that the compact states have an obligation “to protect human health and the environment, including water resources,” but by claiming it will rely on non-existent state regulations, the commission is abdicating its own responsibility to protect the basin and the fifteen million Americans who depend on it for their drinking water.
- The DRBC also intends to rely on the industry to report violations. An industry that is notorious for cutting corners and evading regulatory oversight should not be trusted to police itself. This is another instance in which the DRBC is attempting to shirk its responsibility to protect the public.
- “Approval by Rule” allows the executive director of the DRBC to fast track drilling projects, including additional well pads, that have not been subjected to the full permitting process or to public oversight, This provision should be struck from the regulations.
- The proposed DRBC regulations will ensure that the taxpayer will have to pay the cost of cleaning up environmental accidents. Drillers will be permitted to develop a gas well pad by putting up as little as $125,000-and the executive director can decide to reduce even that paltry amount by 25 percent.
- In promulgating draft regulations before appropriate scientific studies have been undertaken, the DRBC ignored urgent appeals by New York State Governor Paterson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey, the New York City Council, the Philadelphia City Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.
- The draft regulations do not prohibit the “grandfathering in” of gas extraction operations that are subsequently found to be unsafe. If the DRBC rushes ahead and issues regulations without appropriate scientific analysis, gas corporations must understand that any existing extraction operations may be immediately subject to revised regulations. Even if the DRBC persists on its reckless course, drillers should be encouraged to “wait for the science.”
- The draft regulations have not been subjected to an appropriate level of public scrutiny because the commission has not allowed sufficient time for public comment, it has needlessly restricted the means by which the public can submit comments, and it is holding just three public hearings on an issue that is liable to impact fifteen million Americans.