The drinking water source for millions in the Northeast could be fully off limits to the fracking industry—but only if three governors ensure that a vote is scheduled to ban all fracking activities in the Delaware River basin.
Since the governors of the four states in the region (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) are the ones who get to vote on the DRBC’s rules, we need three of them to support a full ban on fracking-related activities. That’s been a mission of Food & Water Watch and our allies for several years. And we just got news that this campaign is bearing fruit.
At a May 16 event in Philadelphia to unveil a proclamation to protect the Delaware River, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Delaware Governor John Carney indicated for the first time that they support a ban on all fracking-related activities in the Delaware River basin. They were following the lead of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who has spoken in favor of that comprehensive ban.
We had to shift support away from weak regulations
This shift is important. In 2017, both Wolf and Carney supported draft regulations issued by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to ban fracking. Unfortunately, those same regulations would allow fracking wastewater treatment and storage in this crucial watershed, as well as the withdrawal of freshwater for the fracking industry. That is simply not good enough.
But earlier this year, Governor Murphy sent a letter to the DRBC indicating that he supported a full ban on fracking and the wastewater treatment and water withdrawals in the Delaware River Basin. Up until last week, no other governor had weighed in. But now Wolf + Murphy + Carney gets us to three.
What changed to move these governors in the right direction?
This huge progress is thanks to grassroots activism, which has always been the key to protecting the Delaware. Back in 2011, anti-fracking activism convinced the DRBC not to vote on regulations that would allow drilling and fracking in the river basin. In 2017, the commission released the draft regulations that would ban fracking but not all fracking-related activities.
That’s when we put our organizing formula back to work. For more than two years, a coalition of groups—including Food & Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Clean Water Action NJ, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, Natural Resources Defense Council and the New Jersey Sierra Club—working to support a full ban has tirelessly pressured the Governors to protect the river from fracking wastewater and water withdrawals.
We have packed the public hearings with speakers, and submitted more than 10,000 public comments to the DRBC pointing out the deficiencies in the draft regulations. Earlier this year, the groups delivered more than 100,000 petitions to each of the state houses in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
What is the next step to a full ban on fracking in the DRBC?
With two more governors on board, the votes are there to pass a full ban on fracking and fracking waste. Now we need the governors to push for the DRBC to schedule a vote. Activists and organizations are continuing to call on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to follow suit and support a comprehensive fracking ban in the Delaware River basin.
And this is where your support comes in. We need you to tell these governors that anything less than a full ban on fracking is unacceptable. This is a fight we must win, because this planet is the only one we get.