Anti-fracking activists call for ‘no’ vote on basin drilling plan

    Days after the Delaware River Basin Commission released its revised regulations for gas drilling in the watershed, anti-drilling activists are calling on the commissioners to reject them.

    Activists say the regulations do not do enough to protect the drinking water supply for 15 million people who draw their water from DRBC-controlled sources.

    Jim Walsh, with the group Food and Water Watch, said he is worried about a provision that allows drilling companies to conduct their own water-quality testing near well pads under DRBC oversight rather than paying the commission to do it.

    “With millions of dollars hanging in the balance for gas company CEOs and their shareholders, there is a strong incentive for the company to skew their numbers and mislead the public about contamination that’s taken place,” Walsh said in a conference call with reporters.

    The commission said allowing companies in other industries to conduct their own compliance testing under strict protocols has been DRBC policy for decades.

    The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, could not be reached for comment. A statement from the coalition said it is encouraged that the regulatory process continues to move forward.

    Environmentalists, who have long pushed for a wide-reaching cumulative impact study on drilling in the basin, were disappointed not to see one called for in the revised regulations.

    “Natural gas develop plans” are required for companies that want to develop more than five wells. Plans would require companies to get approval for drilling and address a variety of environmental impacts in an effort to protect waterways.

    “It’s certainly better than nothing, and it is a step towards doing a cumulative impact statement, but it’s not that itself,” said Mark Szybist, an attorney with Penn Future.

    Other environmental groups say if the commission votes to adopt the regulations on Nov. 21, they will likely follow with legal action.

    A moratorium on drilling in the four-state basin area has been in effect while regulations are written.

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