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Commission to sift through public input as it decides fracking's fate in Delaware River Basin

Delaware Public Media

The Delaware River Basin Commission says it received more than 8,000 submissions of comments on a proposed fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin. Members plan to review input from petitions, comments and individual letters that will help them decide how to move forward with a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin.

Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting liquid into rocks under the Earth’s surface to extract any natural gas and oil.

The DRBC announced draft regulations in November 2017 that propose a ban on fracking, but would still allow wastewater storage, discharges and processing linked to fracking. Drilling companies would still be allowed to withdraw water from the basin to use for fracking in nearby areas.

Groups like the Delaware Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, NRDC, Food & Water Watch and many more say they submitted over 40,000 comments collectively supporting a full ban on activities related to fracking, according to a press release.

They say the DRBC counted individual comments submitted by members of organizations collectively through online comment forms and PDFs as single comments, calling it a "discrepancy." 

Food & Water Watch cites a document they submitted from about 20,000 individuals as being credited as one comment and not telling the whole story.

Emily Wurth, the organizing co-director for Food & Water Watch, says the over 40,000 comments submitted speaks volumes to the public opposition “for any plan that doesn’t completely prohibit all activities related to fracking in the Delaware River Watershed.”

“We are greatly concerned because it [the online list of submissions] appears to unjustly under-represent the public opposition to this proposal," Wurth said.

Peter Eschbach, a public affairs specialist for the DRBC, says the commission received over 8,000 submissions, which is not synonymous with the number of individual comments itself.

"Now what we do — it’s less about the numbers and more about what those comments say and what the scientific and technical responses are to each of those issues that are raised," Eschbach said.


Eschbach responded to concerns of the watershed environmental groups, saying the DRBC has received petitions, individual comments, and even PDFs with hundreds to thousands of pages of individual letters. For documents like the third, that counts as one submission, but DRBC members will be combing through thousands and thousands of comments.


He says DRBC staff will characterize comments and develop a response document to show and respond to the particular issues people are concerned about.

Over 15 million people across Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania get their drinking water from the Delaware River. That includes about 340,000 people in Northern Delaware.

“We should not be putting this precious resource at risk,” Wurth said.

The DRBC held four public hearings on the proposed regulations. Since 2010, they have placed a moratorium on fracking in the basin while studying how it could affect water resources.

This story has been updated to clarify that the DRBC received more than 8,000 submissions of comments on a proposed fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin, not 8,000 individual comments.

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