Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Report: Fracking Could Harm Delaware River Basin If Moratorium Lifted

A new study funded by the Delaware Riverkeeper, an opponent of drilling in the Delaware River Basin, shows lifting an active moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin would have devastating impacts on water and air quality; would cause irreversible damage to agricultural lands and forests that are critical to communities, wildlife, and local economies; and would threaten the health of residents in the Delaware River watershed if drilling were permitted there.
“The unique and rigorous methodology used in this study provides the best information available to date to inform our community and leaders about the potential impacts of natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin,” Delaware Riverkeeper Maya K. van Rossum said. “The message to policymakers is clear—we should reject any attempt to open up any portion of the Delaware River watershed to fracking and shale gas extraction, doing so puts at risk our health, our water, our air, our forests, and watershed economies.”
The study by the nonpartisan research group CNA Analysis and Solutions represents the first time researchers have taken a comprehensive and long-term look at the potential impact of shale gas development on critical aspects of the environment in the Delaware River Basin including air, land, and water.
The analysis provides a baseline for understanding impacts from fracking by examining one drilling scenario and—deploying exhaustive research and methodology—carefully plays out what shale gas development would mean for the region’s environment.
The Delaware River Basin sits atop a sliver of the Marcellus Shale, the second largest gas field in the world. At the same time, it is a vital resource for millions of people and wildlife in four states across the northeast.
The 330-mile, protected river is the largest undammed river east of the Mississippi, is home to diverse wildlife and provides drinking water for over 17 million people.
The waters of the river basin provide the region $22 billion in economic benefits from activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, and farming and supports 600,000 jobs in the coastal, farm, ecotourism, water, ports, and recreation industries.
Adds van Rossum: “Clearly, protecting the health of our Delaware River system is vital to protecting the region’s economy, jobs, and our quality of life.”
The Delaware River Basin Commission, which controls the region, drafted regulations that would allow natural gas development in 2011. A vote on the regulations was postponed, but could be rescheduled at any time.
Despite the major threat that shale gas extraction poses to the Delaware River, a water supply for over 17 million people, there is little active research happening to inform such a vote.
By looking at what would happen if 4,000 wells were fracked in the watershed, CNA researchers provide a detailed analysis of the impacts on specific environmental areas.
The study finds that opening up the Delaware River Basin to fracking would:
— Require 18 to 26 square miles of land, the equivalent to building as many as 840 Walmart Supercenters;
— Convert land to urban conditions with a loss of core forest and degradation of environmentally important forested lands;
— Remove up to 70 percent of water in small streams, permanently depleting crucial flows and increasing damaging runoff, turning some of the highest quality streams into ditches;
— Raise in-stream concentrations of contaminants, including barium and strontium, up to 500 percent above the normal rate, an alarming increase in pollutants. Certain barium types can cause changes to heart rhythm, paralysis or death and radioactive strontium can cause cancer. Children may be more vulnerable to these effects;
— Contaminate river headwaters, increasing sedimentation and erosion rates up to 150 percent, degrading water quality and ecosystems there and downstream;
— Contribute to methane emissions from the Marcellus Shale, adding 1.4 to 5.8 billion cubic feet of methane each year to the atmosphere. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a cause of climate change on a 20-year time scale; and
— As much as double nitrogen oxide emissions where fracking would occur, creating dangerous smog in the long term in areas with currently clean, high quality air.
“This study demonstrates that fracking in the Delaware River watershed would have disastrous effects on local environments,” said Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University. “Unfortunately, with lax enforcement and gaping loopholes in existing regulations, the impacts would likely be worse. The result would be a fundamental transformation of the region for the worst, with repercussions for our communities, economy, and the environment.”
Michele Adams the principal engineer and president of the Meliora Environmental Design – a civil engineering firm specializing in sustainable site design and water resources planning in Pennsylvania, called the findings “sobering.”
“The CNA analysis provides a scientifically rigorous and replicable quantification of the land use and water quality impacts likely to result from allowing shale gas extraction in the Interior Marcellus of the Delaware River Basin,” Adams said. “By comprehensively examining the anticipated impacts – which has not been done before - CNA quantifies the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ effect that gas extraction activities will have on the health of streams in the Delaware River Basin. The findings are sobering for a river that is the primary source of drinking water for millions of people, and an economic driver for the tourism industry. Regulators and decision makers must consider the economic value of the ecosystem services provided by this resource before allowing one short-term industry to create such permanent adverse impacts.”
A copy of the study is available online.
“In reality, despite these so-called ‘findings,’ shale development and hydraulic fracturing are strongly regulated to ensure environmental protection as EPA’s recent study as well as countless other independent researchers have concluded. It’s unfortunate, yet not unexpected, that some extreme anti-energy activists continue to fund and promote fear aimed at generating headlines rather than engaging in a dialogue based on verifiable facts and actual science.” Erica Clayton Wright – Vice President of Communications & Membership Marcellus Shale Coalition.
NewsClip: Report Details Risks Of Lifting Delaware Drilling Moratorium
Related Story:
SRBC Water Monitoring Network Shows No Water Quality Changes Due To Drilling

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