6:01 PM, Nov. 17, 2011
Gov. Jack Markell said late today that Delaware will vote against a regional agency plan to allow a controversial type of deep shale-gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed, citing unsettled and inadequate terms for state and local environmental safeguards and insufficient public review of recently amended regulatory proposals.
The letter, sent to the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and the Army Corps of Engineers, emerged just ahead of Monday’s Delaware River Basin Commission vote on new regulations to allow the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to develop natural gas wells across the northern and northwestern tier of the 13,000-acre watershed.
Fracking allows well-drillers to break previously inaccessible natural gas free of deep shale beds by using high-pressure injections of water, chemicals and sand. Vast amounts of gas are believed to be trapped under a 50,000 square mile stone layer below Pennsylvania and New York and similar deposits around the eastern United States.
Drilling advocates see the gas as an untapped source of wealth and reliable, cleaner-burning domestic energy. Critics see the drilling practice as a threat to groundwater and air quality, and as a potential source of spills, runoff and aquifer pollution that could eventually contaminate the Delaware River itself.'
“This risk is a significant concern for Delaware and therefore, until we have confidence that the Commission's Natural Gas Development Regulations, coupled with the state and local regulations upon which they rely, are adequately protective of this water supply, I have a duty to current and future generations of Delawareans to vote no,” Markell said in a letter sent during a stopover in Kuwait, during his return trip from visiting Delaware troops stationed in Afghanistan.