Hydrofracking: At What Risk?

The gas industry has bombarded the public with television, radio, Internet and billboard ads to convince us that hydrofracking for natural gas in shale deposits will provide the answer to clean energy and our economic woes.  However, the verdict regarding the impact of such drilling on our land, air, and water resources is still out.  Sound decision-making concerning public health must be based on science – and the science isn't in yet.

But on November 21st, before we have all of the facts, the Delaware River Basin Commissioners will vote on whether to lift the current moratorium on high volume slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware River Basin. This basin provides drinking water to over 15 million people in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  The importance of awaiting independent scientific feedback is exemplified by EPA raw sampling data released this week for two monitoring wells in Pavillion, Wyoming.  The data show the presence of compounds consistent with hydraulic fracturing, such as the solvent 2 Butoxyethanol (2-BE), phenols, acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.   EPA will release a report, with findings, later this month.  An end to the defacto moratorium now represents a premature misstep that may endanger the health of millions of our residents.

The five commissioners who will make this decision are the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and Col. Christopher Larsen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic Division, who chairs the Commission and represents the federal government.  The mission of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), as stewards of the Basin's water resources, includes "basing decisions on sound science" and "protecting, enhancing, and developing the water resources of the Delaware River Basin for present and future generations." 

Sign Up for E-News

With a core value of serving the public, a decision of this magnitude should not be made without first reviewing the yet to be completed EPA study The Impacts of Hydrofracking on Water Supply. The overwhelming response to the original Draft Regulations and the fact that over 69,800 comments were submitted, including 4,800 unique letters, 80 of which had attachments, speak volumes about public concern and require more thoughtful consideration.  The League of Women Voters applauds such participation.   However, the revisions to the regulations published this week raise new concerns.  This time, no comments will be allowed.  Is pressure from industry to lift the moratorium so great that it is overwhelming a process carefully designed to protect the public interest?

The DRBC appears willing to abdicate some of its overall responsibility by deferring issues to the states.  For example, each state will set its own critical regulations relating to discharge of wastewater to streams and rivers.   They will also regulate deep injection wells for wastewater within the Basin.

With the public's health at stake, and limited finances to fund health care, these concerns should not be taken lightly.  The drinking water of 81% of Delaware, 34% of New Jersey, 32% of New York and 42% of Pennsylvania's residents is at risk.* Unfortunately, the Environmental Impact Study the DRBC originally requested was never funded.  Such a study could have evaluated impacts to air quality from drilling pads, waste impoundments and compressor stations.  It could also have studied local seismic sensitivity and specifics of the area's geology, climate and topography.

The residents of our four states deserve better than to have an under-informed vote determine whether or not to lift the moratorium.  According to its mission, "The Commission will be the leader in protecting, enhancing, and developing the water resources for the Delaware River Basin for present and future generations."  The Leagues of Women Voters of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania support this mission and therefore urge every concerned citizen to contact her/his Governor, and the Commission as a whole.  Ask them to wait before finalizing regulations or issuing permits, until the scientific results of the EPA study can be published, reviewed, and understood.  These results can then be incorporated into a common sense scheme for handling the drinking water sources that sustain the lives of millions of Americans.  

(*Earth Institute at Columbia University)

This op-ed is co-written by the presidents of four state Leagues: Carol Jones, President, League of Women Voters of Delaware, Toni Zimmer, President, League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Betsy Swan, President, League of Women Voters of New York State, Olivia Thorne, President, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania

 The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


A Week at the Library of The Chathams Monday, February 19 – Sunday, February 25, 2018


By Galina Natenzon

Friends of the Library are continuing their book collection in preparation for Annual Book Sale.  Kids are off from school on Monday for Presidents’ Day – bring them to the library!  We have plenty for them to do.  For adults, Professor Licklider’s second lecture on North Korea will take place on Tuesday.  The ...

Imagine a Chatham Toboggan Ride from the Top of Fairmount Avenue to Main Street

Did you know….
there was a time when Chatham kids could ice skate from downtown Chatham all the way to Florham Park? And that a toboggan ride could last from the top of Fairmount Avenue down to Main Street and beyond?

Those were the days!

This was back in the early to mid-1900s. The Passaic River meandered through grassy meadows and woods on the north side of Chatham. The marshy ...


February 20, 2018

To the Editor,

I told my daughter I needed to write about gun violence. Know what she told me? “Mom, be sure you’re not too polarizing. People won’t listen.” She’s right. At age eleven she’s figured out that we adults need to be reminded how to speak to one another in order to fix a problem. But I have hope and belief that we can fix that discourse in our ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

Adults Who Interact With Teens Offered Free Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

February 23, 2018

With teenage suicide rates on an upswing, a barrage of tragedies in the news, and the heightened pressures of adolescence in a media-frenzied world, it’s more important than ever for caring adults to know how to intervene effectively.

Morris County again this year is funding Youth Mental Health First Aid training through NewBridge Services for adults who regularly interact with children ...