New Jersey Flexes Muscles in Delaware Basin Drilling Dispute

Published May 31, 2016

New Jersey officials are pushing the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to enact rules allowing the state to produce natural gas in the region, threatening to withhold funding if the new authority isn’t granted.

Pilot Program Contemplated
New Jersey officials have proposed a pilot program in the Delaware Basin that would conditionally allow fracking while setting up a regulatory system to study the effects of fracking on the water supply. The rules would effectively overturn a moratorium that DRBC members have recently instituted against gas drilling in the basin.

In response, environmental activists are mobilizing against natural gas drilling in the basin.

Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey’s Sierra Club, told the press chemicals in fracking fluids will pollute water supplies in the Basin if New Jersey gains permission to produce natural gas. 

State Department of Environmental Protection officials dispute that claim, however, and say they are only trying to find the means for using natural resources in a safe manner.

New Jersey Seeking American Energy
Meanwhile, Chris Kniesler, executive director of Solutions for New Jersey, says drilling for natural gas in the Delaware Basin will help minimize the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources.

“Anything we can do to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, we should be doing it,” Kniesler said. 

Natural Gas Production Not New
The DRBC is a multistate agency formed under a federal agreement to regulate water quality of the Delaware River and its tributaries. Member states include Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware. The tributaries provide drinking water for Philadelphia and New York City.

Thousands of natural gas drilling permits have been processed along the upper side of the basin in Pennsylvania, along the Marcellus Shale formation, for years. It’s only recently that DRBC members have halted the practice.

“This process has been going on for 60 years, and just lately it’s becoming a problem? That seems a little suspicious,” Kniesler said.

Industry experts have presented data showing the environmentalists’ claims of water degradation due to natural gas production are false, he continued.

“We should be going ahead and drilling for natural gas,” Kniesler said. “America should be self-sufficient.”

Cheryl K. Chumley, [email protected], writes from northern Virginia.