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Groups Seek Permanent Delaware Watershed Drilling Ban

A moratorium has prevented drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River watershed since 2010.  (Tomwsulcer/Wikimedia Commons)
A moratorium has prevented drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River watershed since 2010. (Tomwsulcer/Wikimedia Commons)
July 25, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental groups are visiting Harrisburg and three other state capitals this week to deliver a petition calling for a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware plus the Army Corps of Engineers make up the Delaware River Basin Commission.

Currently, there is a moratorium in effect that blocks any fracking in the Delaware watershed.

According to Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, the groups have gathered more than 50,000 signatures asking that the moratorium be made into a permanent ban.

"It's a moratorium that could be lifted at any time if the Commission were to put forth and pass regulations guiding how drilling would happen in the watershed," she says.

The oil and gas industry says hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas promotes energy independence and economic development.

But van Rossum points out that fracking itself has had serious environmental consequences where it has taken place.

"Fracking has devastated drinking-water supplies, it's contaminating the air, it's harming people's health, it's diminishing their property values," she explains. "It's harming every aspect of people's lives."

The environmental groups are visiting one of the four state capitals and the Army Corps of Engineers each day this week to deliver their petitions calling for a ban.

The petition will be delivered to Harrisburg on Thursday. Van Rossum notes that Gov. Tom Wolf has said he supports continuing protections in the Delaware watershed.

"But of course, Gov. Wolf is allowing drilling and fracking to devastate communities across the Commonwealth in central and western Pennsylvania, so that is a concern," she adds.

The environmental groups are most concerned that, as President Trump's representative on the commission, the Army Corps of Engineers holds one of the five votes that will decide the Delaware River's future.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA