This is the testimony of Peter Wynne given at the January 23rd DRBC Hearing in Waymart on their proposed fracking ban. Let it speak for itself.
As most of you surely know, the Delaware River Basin Commission decided that natural gas wells fell within the commission’s regulatory purview all the way back in May of 2009. And a year later, the five commissions voted unanimously to hold off on any decision whether to permit such wells in the basin until drilling regulations had been adopted.
In December 2010, the DRBC published proposed regulations and held public hearings, with elicited more than 60,000 public comments. After reviewing these, the commission posted its revised draft regulations; this was early November 2011. But opponents of gas drilling raised such a ruckus, the commissioners backed away from their regulations and did not revisit them again in a public forum.
Now, this last September, the DRBC announced it intended to make permanent the de facto moratorium put in place more than seven years earlier. And in November, the commission posted proposed rules that would formally ban horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the basin. It’s to comment on this proposal that we’re here today.
Over the years, the explanation given for the commission’s inaction has been the claim that the commissioners were uncertain about the safety of drilling wells in the various shale layers that lie beneath our region and stimulating those wells to produce more gas by breaking up the shale surrounding the well bore with fluid under high pressure, the process called “hydraulic fracturing.”
Back in November 2011, only a limited amount of information was indeed available on the effects and risks of fracking in the Marcellus Shale and in shale layers, such as the Utica, lying even deeper down. But since then, something like 1,100 natural gas wells have been drilled and fracked next door in Susquehanna County where, geologists tell us, the geology is essentially the same as ours in Wayne County. And there has yet to be a single instance where hydraulic fracturing fluids have seeped upward and contaminated the freshwater aquifers that lie many thousands of feet above the shale.
Moreover, the surface activities of the well drillers have vastly improved over the last six or seven years. Wastewater from fracking is now recycled. It’s no longer held in open pits or carted off to be pumped into injection wells. Pipelines now carry water from one well to another, replacing the trucks that were used for that task.
Just how much evidence that drilling and fracking is safe must the Delaware River Basin Commissioners have? If the commission proceeds to adopt a permanent ban on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the basin, one will be forced to concluded that the governors of the commission-member states, their representatives and the professional staff of the commission are willing to server their own political and financial advantage by abrogating the property rights of the landowners of Wayne and Pike Counties.