DRBC Tables Permit for Major XTO Water Withdrawal from The Upper Delaware – For Now

Update: Encouragingly, the DRBC voted to table the permit until further hearings! Victory – Our Voices Really Do Add Up!! Congratulations to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Protecting Our Waters, PennEnvironment and all the other groups whose vigilance and hard work hard paid off. More on this important issue to follow.

XTO Energy, Inc., a gas subsidiary of ExxonMobile Corp., would like to pull 250,000 gallons of water PER DAY from the ecologically sensitive cold water flows of the Upper Delaware River Region in Oquaga and Broome Counties, NY for hydraulic fracturing. That’s 100 million gallons A YEAR, for free. The ensuing environmental impact to nature and wildlife in this widely used recreation area would be indelibly damaged.

If the DRBC approves this permit, they will be acting in contradiction to their own mandate.

The DRBC is a governing body comprised of the Governors of NY, NJ, PA and DE, as well as their appointees, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, and a committee-appointed Chairperson. The Upper Delaware Regions extends from Delaware to New York, and so do the Special Protection Waters which the DRBC is charged with managing.  In their own words, the DRBC is charged… “to protect existing high water quality in areas of the Delaware River Basin deemed “to have exceptionally high scenic, recreational, ecological and/or water supply.” SOURCE: DRBC.net

The proposed XTO water withdrawal would significantly deplete fresh water resources in the in the Delaware Watershed, leaving the Lower Delaware Region more vulnerable to drought. Additionally, not all the wastewater produced by XTO in their fracking operations will be reused to frack new wells. Much of it will be treated with a “Best Demonstrable Technology” and ultimately be released downstream where it will flow into Southeastern PA and Northeastern Delaware.

“The Special Protection Waters program was first created in the early 1990s in response to a petition submitted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and efforts by the National Park Service to have the Upper and Middle Delaware River designated as Clean Water Act Outstanding Natural Resource Waters. ‘This is our region’s version of the Outstanding Natural Resource Waters program and so strong regulations backed by strong implementation are critical, and never to be lost in the milieu of politics and money,’ stated Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya van Rossum.” SOURCE: DelawareRiverkeeper.org

In 2008, The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s vigilant activism resulted in secured Special Protection Waters (SPW) designation for the Lower Delaware River from the Water Gap to Washington Crossing. At 197 miles, it’s the longest, continuous Special Protection Waters span on any river in the country.

Say “No!” to Water Withdrawals, Drilling and Disposal in The Watershed Region!
Email the DRBC Chairperson, Carol Collier at carol.collier@drbc.state.nj.us.

Dear Ms. Collier:
Please DO NOT approve OTX’s Water Withdrawal Permit on May 11, 2011. Please maintain the current moratorium until the EPA completes its study in 2014, and please stop issuing disposal permits of any kind until then!
Deeply Concerned,
[Your Name & Address]

The Delaware Riverkeeper has drafted more detailed letter you can mail to the DRBC (pasted below). You can also attend the DRBC meeting on May 11, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the Volunteer Fire Hall in West Trenton, NJ.

Or simply visit: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org and go to “Take Action.”

~

More About The “Special Protections Waters”
“The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) adopted Special Protection Waters (SPW) regulations in 1992 for point source (or “end-of-pipe”) discharges and in 1994 for non-point source pollutant loadings carried by runoff to protect existing high water quality in areas of the Delaware River Basin deemed ‘to have exceptionally high scenic, recreational, ecological and/or water supply values.’

“The SPW regulations further require that the minimal level of wastewater treatment for all new discharges and substantial additions or alterations to existing discharges directly to Special Protection Waters will be “Best Demonstrable Technology.” Best Demonstrable Technology (BDT) is defined for municipal facilities by 30-day average effluent criteria for seven parameters plus ultraviolet light disinfection. Equivalent criteria for industrial facilities are identified on a case-by-case basis.”

SOURCE: DRBC.net

~

Carol Collier, Executive Director
Commission Members
Delaware River Basin Commission
P.O. BOX 7360
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360
paula.schmitt@drbc.state.nj.us

Re: XTO Energy, Inc., D-2010-022-1

Dear Ms. Collier and Commission Members,

I oppose the approval of ExxonMobil’s XTO application for a water withdrawal of 0.25 million gallons of water per day from the Oquaga Creek in Broome County, NY for gas drilling in Broome and Delaware Counties.

The DRBC is analyzing the impacts of gas drilling and has a drilling moratorium in place while developing gas regulations that could affect this withdrawal proposal; New York Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of conducting an environmental review of the gas development practices that this water would be used for.  It is untimely and irresponsible to approve this withdrawal while these deliberations are ongoing.

The people in Broome and Delaware Counties have an undeniable stake in this creek, its watershed and the region.  This withdrawal and the drilling it will support will indelibly change that area.  Yet you are refusing to hold a Hearing there. This is unacceptable and denies many people of their right to participate in the decision making process.  I request that you set a Public Hearing in the Oquaga Creek region, just as you had a local hearing for the West Branch Lackawaxen River withdrawal in 2010.  Further, you have only given 10 working days notice of your proposed approval; this deprives everyone, including the 15 million people who ultimately rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, of a meaningful public process.

The fresh water flows of this vibrant creek provide essential habitat for trout and other special species and the watershed provides groundwater supplies that could be impacted by this depletive withdrawal.  The Oquaga is an important recreational resource and feeds healthy cold water flows to the West Branch and main stem Delaware, supporting the exceptional water quality of the Delaware River.  Who says gas drilling is more important?

We respectfully request that this approval not be approved, that a meaningful public participation process be scheduled, that the Oquaga Creek be protected, and that the moratorium remain in place on gas drilling in the Delaware River Watershed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Sincerely,

[YourName & Address]

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