Protecting the Delaware River Basin

Currently, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is considering regulations to oversee natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed. Drilling is a major issue for many towns and communities throughout the basin and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Natural gas has played, and will continue to play, an important role in our energy portfolio as we transition to a new energy future, and we are fortunate to have domestic resources to help meet our growing needs. However, we must develop the Marcellus Shale using the best practices to protect our communities, our people and our environment. While the continued development of this natural resource can lead to job creation and a strengthened state economy, it also presents a significant threat to the water quality of people living near, or downstream from, drilling sites. Over 15 million people, including those living in Philadelphia, acquire their water from water sources within the basin.  The threat cannot be ignored.

Because I believe the development of the Marcellus Shale must be done with the highest regard for the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians and for the protection of our environment, I sent a letter to the DRBC urging that it establish effective regulations for gas drilling activities in the Delaware River Basin. It is imperative that the DRBC put the right regulations in place now so that our State fully benefits from the development of the Marcellus Shale. In addition to the need for effective regulation, I have also called for the DRBC to allow ample opportunity for full public comment on these regulations and ample time for its review of the public’s input.

I believe we have a responsibility to protect the water of the Delaware River Basin, and water throughout Pennsylvania. Even more importantly, the health and safety of Pennsylvanians and other residents of the Delaware River Basin must be safeguarded.  This is why I have introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2010, also known as the FRAC Act. My bill requires that the natural gas industry provide complete disclosure of the chemical composition of hydraulic fracturing materials and requires that hydraulic fracturing be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. I have also distributed draft legislation entitled the Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response (FASTER) Act, which will enhance emergency response procedures at oil and gas wells. As stated in my letter, I strongly encourage the DRBC to include in its regulations a hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure requirement, as well as emergency response provisions.

In 1961, President Kennedy brought together the Governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware to form the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The five members, those four states and the federal government, signed concurrent legislation creating a regional body in order to maintain the Delaware River system without concern for state boundaries. The DRBC is responsible for water quality protection, water supply allocation, permit reviews, water conservation initiatives, watershed planning, drought management, flood loss reduction and recreation.