DEP urges Delaware River Basin Commission to move with caution on developing natural gas production regulations

TRENTON – The state Department of Environmental Protection is seeking to limit the number of wells that can be drilled for natural gas development projects.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin urged the Delaware River Basin Commission Friday to move with great caution on developing natural gas production regulations, particularly with regards to the controversial procedure of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The DEP stated that it wants to protect natural resources and drinking water quality in the Delaware River Basin.

Martin said the DRBC should allow no more than 30 production well pads, not to exceed 300 production wells in total, within two years after adopting the regulations. In addition, the agency also wants to make sure wastewater discharges from “fracking” operations, such as unregulated contaminants, doesn’t compromise the river basin.

“We will vigilantly ensure that our water is adequately protected and the natural values of the basin are preserved,” Commissioner Martin wrote to DRBC. “We will insist that natural gas regulations, as ultimately promulgated by the DRBC, guarantee the supply and quality of the Delaware River water, on which New Jersey relies for up to one-quarter of our drinking water.”

He said the state will not agree to any discharge of fracking wastewater until it can be proven that such discharges are not harmful to water quality.

“While protecting the water supply and quality in the Basin is paramount, New Jersey recognizes the significant positive economic impact that the development of this natural gas resource will have on the DRBC states,” wrote Martin. “We also recognize the important role that the development of Marcellus Shale natural gas plays in the energy security of the United States and as a cleaner fuel source than coal or oil.  

“But New Jersey believes it is imperative that the DRBC move cautiously when authorizing the development of natural gas in the Basin,” said Martin. “We must work toward guaranteeing that the environmental integrity of the Delaware River Basin is forever protected.”

Martin said New Jersey would require the following:

1) proper management and disposal of the waste material derived from the fracking process;

2) that sources of water from the basin required for the extraction activity be sustainable, and;

3) evidence that water diversions would not cause adverse impacts to other water users or the environment.

“Without these conditions in place, natural gas development activities in the Delaware River Basin will be unacceptable,” wrote Martin.

“Fracking” uses high volumes of water mixed with small amounts of sand and chemical compounds to extract natural gas locked within the shale. New drilling and extraction techniques have renewed interest by energy development companies in drilling for natural gas deposits trapped within the Marcellus formation, which is estimated to contain enough natural gas to meet U.S. demand for decades.

While no drilling would occur in New Jersey, as many as 10,000 wells could be drilled in the Delaware River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York.

DEP urges Delaware River Basin Commission to move with caution on developing natural gas production regulations