DRBC Proposed Rule Would Ban High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing
On November 30, 2017, the Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”) published a proposed rule that, if finalized, would prohibit “high-volume hydraulic fracturing” within the Delaware River Basin. The proposed rule reflects the DRBC’s conclusion that “high volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant, immediate and long-term risks to the development, conservation, utilization, management, and preservation of the water resources of the Delaware River Basin.” The Delaware River Basin extends into four northeastern states and includes seventeen counties in Eastern Pennsylvania, many of which lie above the Marcellus Shale formation.
The proposed rule defines “high-volume hydraulic fracturing” as fracturing operations that use “a combined total of 300,000 or more gallons of water during all stages in a well completion . . . whether the water is fresh or recycled and regardless of the chemicals or other additives mixed with the water.” This definition is likely to capture most hydraulic fracturing operations. For example, the preamble to proposed rule states that the average hydraulically fractured natural gas well in the nearby Susquehanna River Basin injected 4.3 million gallons of water from 2008-2013; similarly, the preamble cites the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 hydraulic fracturing study, which concluded that the median volume of water used per well fracturing event in Pennsylvania between January 2011 and February 2013 was 4.18 million gallons.
In addition to the proposed ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the proposed rule would also discourage the exportation of waters from the Delaware River Basin “to support hydraulic fracturing outside the Basin,” require an assessment of alternatives before allowing the importation of produced water into the Delaware River Basin, and require DRBC approval for produced water treatment within the Delaware River Basin.
The DRBC is accepting comments on the proposed rule through February 28, 2018 at 5 PM. In addition, the DRBC will convene a series of public hearings on the proposed rule on January 23, 2018 in Waymart, Pennsylvania and on January 25, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Read the proposed rule in full here.