Fracking the Delaware River Basin: It’s About Time!

John J. IntervalJohn J. Interval
Professional Petroleum Geologist.

 

John J. Interval explains how fracking the Delaware River Basin would provide long term economic benefits, growth and jobs.

There is no overstating the importance of allowing fracking for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin. It could produce as much as $435 million worth of natural gas annually, bringing huge economic benefits and creating manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to a study done by Gerald Kauffman, director of the University of Delaware’s Delaware Water Resources Center.

Delaware River Basin

About 9 percent of the Marcellus Shale lies within the basin, which encompasses all or parts of 31 Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties along the states’ shared border. The production of natural gas in the Marcellus shale, one of the largest formations of its kind in the U.S., has bolstered the region’s economy, especially in Pennsylvania, without any adverse effects on groundwater.

Nevertheless, since 2010, there has been a de facto moratorium on any drilling in the basin. Regrettably, this prohibition could become permanent. The Delaware River Basin Commission has directed its staff to consider replacing the moratorium with a permanent ban on fracking. A vote on such a ban is expected by mid-2018. There is also a proposal under consideration to allow fracking wastewater to be stored or discharged in deep underground wells within the watershed and using water from the basin for fracking.

Environmental groups are understandably concerned that wastewater discharges could contaminate underground water resources that millions of people rely on for drinking water. But wastewater wells in southwest Pennsylvania are closely monitored by industry personnel and state regulators to make sure no leaks occur.  The disposal of Marcellus wastewater has an excellent safety record, with no degradation of groundwater. Besides, nearly all of the wastewater from fracking is recycled for further use to reduce the need for storing or discharging the liquid in wells.

Environmentalists are still finding ways to tie up natural gas producers with bans on fracking and ill-conceived regulations. Never mind that clean air laws have shifted demand to a single fuel, natural gas. We are burning this fuel at an enormous rate. Natural gas is now the number one fuel for electricity production, the fuel of choice for nearly 90 percent of new electric power plants in the U.S.

Closing off the 13,359-square-mile Delaware River Basin to gas production is nonsensical. This dilemma would not have occurred had it not been for years of pandering to environmental groups with policies guided by an unfounded assumption that energy development and protection of the environment are incompatible. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that fracking is safe.

Delware River Basin

The anti-fracking approach — no gas drilling in the basin and no storage or discharge of wastewater — closes off both avenues to economic growth. In the long run, that would cost Pennsylvania and New Jersey hundreds of millions of dollars, and block the creation of jobs and economic benefits.

The pro-fracking approach, by contrast, would help to provide for the long-term benefit of people who live within the basin, enhance benefits for farmers and other landowners who have signed potentially lucrative drilling leases and provide guaranteed benefits for millions of people who deserve relief from environmental restrictions that are blocking access to known energy resources.

John J. Interval is a professional petroleum geologist. He lives in Bridgeville, Pa.

The post Fracking the Delaware River Basin: It’s About Time! appeared first on Natural Gas Now.

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