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A Victory in the Fight Against Fracking! Riverkeeper responds to DRBC cancellation of gas drilling vote
Ossining, NY – November 18, 2011– The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has postponed indefinitely a meeting originally scheduled for Monday, November 21 to vote on its proposed gas drilling regulations, which would open up the Delaware River Basin for drilling. The announcement came on the heels of a letter sent by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, released late November 17, that he would vote no to DRBC’s proposed gas drilling regulations. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Martens had already announced on November 10 that Governor Cuomo would also be voting no to the regulations.
The voting members of the DRBC are the Governors of New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the federal government, represented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Pennsylvania had indicated it would vote yes, with New Jersey and the Army Corps being the deciding votes. Faced with the possibility that the regulations might have been voted down, DRBC has postponed the vote and set no new date.
In August, Riverkeeper joined with Delaware Riverkeeper Network and National Parks Conservation Association in a lawsuit seeking to stop the DRBC from moving ahead with these inadequate regulations without completing environmental studies required by federal law. Riverkeeper’s case is consolidated with a nearly identical suit, which was brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earlier this summer. The DRBC gas drilling regulations would pose a major threat to the New York City Watershed, as the Basin area currently provides 50 percent of the clean, unfiltered drinking water that nine million New Yorkers depend on daily.
“DRBC had no choice but to pull the plug, following New York’s and Delaware’s decisions to vote ‘no’ on this fundamentally flawed regulatory proposal. Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Martens need to take their own advice and apply it here in New York, because their fracking plan is in no better shape than the DRBC’s,” said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. Governor Markell cites the need to put the proper regulatory process in place before permitting gas drilling as a reason for his decision to vote against the regulations, noting in his letter that the “very efficacy of the Commission’s regulations depend heavily on state law or regulation but the decision makers in each state have yet to determine whether sound science will ultimately prevail.” He notes that New York scientists and experts are still reviewing and considering New York’s fracking proposal. This fight is not over, but Delaware’s and the DRBC’s announcement is a partial victory for putting environmental review and science before hasty drilling policies.
“The Delaware River Basin portion of New York provides the unfiltered, pristine drinking water that nine million New Yorkers rely on each day,” said Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper Watershed Program Director, “Today’s postponement is a victory for the Delaware Basin watershed which will remain protected as long as DRBC maintains its moratorium on gas drilling. We continue the fight to make certain that fracking does not threaten other watersheds that provide New Yorker’s drinking water throughout the state.” The DRBC partial victory is an important milestone in the ongoing battle against the rush to fracking in New York State, where public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement and proposed regulations for fracking have begun. The public only has until December 12 to weigh in on how fracking will move forward in New York State.
Riverkeeper is a member-supported, watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. For more information, please visit www.riverkeeper.org