NEW JERSEY INSISTS ON STRICT DELAWARE RIVER WATER PROTECTIONS FROM NATURAL GAS DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING LIMITS ON INITIAL NUMBER OF "FRACKING'' WELLS
(11/P51) TRENTON - New Jersey wants tough regulations enacted to protect the water supply and natural resources of the Delaware River Basin from any potential negative impacts of natural gas development projects in neighboring states, and is seeking a strict limit to the initial number of production wells to be drilled, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in formal comments sent today to the Delaware River Basin Commission.
While recognizing the significant contributions to the economy and to energy security that development of natural gas resources may make to DRBC states and the nation, Commissioner Martin said the DRBC, in its effort to create regulations for natural gas production, must move forward with great caution to ensure there is no threat to New Jersey's drinking water or environment from projects that employ a hydraulic fracturing or "fracking'' process.
"We will vigilantly ensure that our water is adequately protected and the natural values of the Basin are preserved,'' Commissioner Martin wrote. "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."
Once regulations are adopted, New Jersey wants the DRBC to stage the approval of well pads. It should allow no more than 30 production well pads, not to exceed 300 production wells in total, in the two years immediately following adoption of its proposed regulations. The DRBC then should conduct an extensive study to assess the impact of the initial wells and the effectiveness of its regulations before any further drilling could occur.
New Jersey also remains concerned with wastewater discharges from fracking operations, and wants safeguards in place, particularly for unregulated contaminants, to ensure wastewater does not negatively impact the Delaware River Basin. 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 Commissioner 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 Commissioner Martin. "We must work toward guaranteeing that the environmental integrity of the Delaware River Basin is forever protected.''
New Jersey would require: 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 Commissioner Martin.
Hydraulic fracturing 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.
The DRBC, whose members include the four Delaware River Basin states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware) plus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity issues throughout the Basin. The Commission has proposed natural gas development rules that are now the subject of public comments, which will be accepted through April 15.
To see the full text of Commissioner Martin's formal comments to the DRBC, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/docs/collier-drbc20110414.pdf
To read Commissioner Martin's Dec. 7, 2010 letter to the DRBC, visit:
For more information on the DRBC's actions on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/naturalgas.htm
For information on the DRBC's public comment process, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/newsrel_naturalgas030211.htm