Four States Sign Compact to Ban Fracking In Delaware River Basin

Aerial gas wells. Image: Credit: Max Phillips (Jeremy Buckingham MLC)

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

In February, the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware voted unanimously to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin, but Republican-led lawsuits are seeking to stop this action. The ban prevented the natural gas industry from blasting up to 4,000 wells in the basin, serving a blow to the fossil fuel industry. While the conservative state lawmakers that the bans will eliminate hundreds of jobs, the Democrats say that the over 48 million residents of these four states have a constitutional right to clean air, clean water, and the preservation of natural resources.

 

Why This Matters: In order for the Biden administration to reach its goal of net-zero emission by 2050, it will need the assistance of states like these. While Pennsylvania has been an epicenter of fossil fuel production, its leadership is taking a turn toward green energy to preserve the state’s energy advantage. Additionally, in 2018, New Jersey passed one of the nation’s strongest bans on offshore oil drilling. Experts say that this allied ban on fracking is proof of clean energy momentum and will encourage other states to take similar action.

Delaware’s Moment: Democrats say that the decision to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin was based on science. The EPA’s environmental assessment found increased levels of chloride in the water near sites used to store drilling waste and wastewaters and concluded the cause of the contamination was fracking activity. Experts say this chloride threatened the health of local communities that rely on that water for drinking. “The state has an obligation to make sure that it is protecting the waters, the air, and natural resources of our Pennsylvania,” said PA State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D).

The opposition to these bans, led by State Senator Gene Yaw (R) of Pennsylvania argued that the Delaware River Basin Commission was employing New York’s “failed policies” that threaten the economic health of Pennsylvania. “The DRBC ban is not just an assault on a highly regulated industry that employs thousands of Pennsylvanians, but it’s another example of neighboring states dictating our energy policy,” he said. But environmentalists and advocates aren’t swayed and are confident that with the taxpayers, health officials, and the EPA on their side, further lawsuits won’t have a leg to stand on.

 

Uphill Battle, Downhill Stumble: Environmental advocacy groups like the Sierra Club have been working for years to end fracking, and now, they have a lot to celebrate. A perfect storm of factors is converging to force states and even companies to rethink the benefits of a fossil fuel economy. Gas prices are falling and companies are losing millions while the federal government and high-profile corporations are heavily investing in green energy, electric vehicles, and carbon sequestration. New projects are being canceled and abandoned throughout the nation.

  • On his first day in office, President Biden canceled the extremely controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • In July 2020, the 600-mile, $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled.
  • A deal to export natural gas from Texas to France fell apart in November 2020 due to concerns over methane emissions.

But the Sierra Club says that for every project canceled, there are workers and communities left adrift by failing companies. “While fossil fuel executives often get golden parachutes on the way out the door, fossil fuel workers don’t,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “As the era of fracked gas comes to an end, we must ensure that the affected workers have access to wage support, job retraining, and other resources.”

 

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