Delaware Basin Mulls Fracking Ban as Trump Plans to Slash EPA Water Funding

counties-within-the-delaware-river-basin-1-638The agency that regulates drinking water for 15 million people in the Delaware River Basin is poised to consider replacing its seven-year moratorium on fracking for natural gas with a permanent fracking ban, a source told the Associated Press today.
The river basin includes most of the states of New Jersey and Delaware and portions of New York and Pennsylvania.
The source spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity because the plan by the Delaware River Basin Commission was not scheduled to be released until Friday, Sept. 8. The agency regulates water quality and quantity in the Delaware River and its tributaries.
The commission’s proposed fracking ban comes as the Trump Administration plans to cut water-related programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by one-third or more for the coming fiscal year.
Those cuts — including direct EPA funding for water regulation and federal water quality grants to state governments — would impair water quality in the Delaware River Basin, according to a report released in August by PennEnvironment.
The basin commission had imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the region in 2010 to give its staff time to draft drilling rules. The five-member panel was set to vote on fracking regulations in 2011 but abruptly pulled back because of dissension among members. It’s been relatively quiet ever since.waterimpact-big
Meanwhile in 2015, the EPA released a controversial five-year draft study on fracking’s impact on water quality. The report’s executive summary included the highly misleading statement that the agency “did not find evidence” that modern fracking has “led to widespread, systematic impacts on drinking water in the United States.”
The natural gas industry immediately seized on that sound-bite as a PR weapon against fracking bans that were under consideration in Colorado and other states in the wake of New York’s December 2014 fracking ban, I reported in July 2015.
Last summer members of an EPA science advisory board noted deficiencies in the draft water report, specifically criticizing the wording about no “widespread, systematic impacts” from fracking.
When the EPA finalized the water report last December, it acknowledged that fracking can in fact contaminate drinking water. That revision to the 2015 draft came just weeks after Trump was elected, and it drew sharp criticism from the energy industry.
“It is beyond absurd for the administration to reverse course on its way out the door,” a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute said in a Dec. 13, 2016 statement.

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