TRENTON – Environmental advocates criticized the environmental draft regulations concerning natural gas drilling that were released this week by the Delaware River Basin Commission, saying they have gone from bad to worse.
The fact that some 69,000 comments were issued between last December and April shows the level of concern people have for the basin, which provides drinking water for some 15 million residents, key environmentalists said.
Maya Van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network described the original draft regulations from last year as “highly deficient.” Following the comment period, she described the revised draft rules as “even more deficient.”
She said they recommended the DRBC to do a “cumulative environmental assessment” of the regulations.
N.J. Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said the draft regulation are filled with loopholes, describing them as being “as toxic as fracking fluid,” in reference to the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
One of the rules proposes reducing the size of the buffers between gas drilling wells and bodies of water from 500 feet to 300 feet.
“There’s not enough area for the buffers to absorb those pollutants,” he said, adding that some buffers are as small as 100 feet.
The DRBC will take a vote on Nov. 21 at the Trenton War Memorial that could permit the hydraulic fracturing.
Jim Walsh of New Jersey Food and Water Watch said another rule that would allow the actual gas companies doing the drilling to engage in self-monitoring, instead of being monitored by the DRBC, poses potential problems for public health and the environment, especially surface water contamination.
“There a strong incentive to skew reporting,” he said.
But a DRBC spokesperson said the regulations are designed to provide safety without having duplication in regulations. He added that there are state federal laws that provide protections that would need to be followed, since DRBC rules can’t supersede them.
While he admitted that some of the proposed buffer areas are smaller than current regulations, he said that they don’t compromise safety and the public health.