From: Edward McAllister, Reuters, NEW YORK
Published November 19, 2011 09:14 AM

Delaware River Basin natural gas drilling vote postponed

A key vote to lift a ban on drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin has been postponed, prompting claims of victory from environmentalists concerned about water contamination.


The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates water use across the 14,000-square-mile (36,260-square-km), gas-rich basin, suspended a vote scheduled for Monday amid speculation that its five members lacked the three votes needed to allow drilling.

"There are still some open issues that the commissioners have to work through," said DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert, who had no new date for the vote.

Earlier this month, the DRBC proposed ending the drilling moratorium in the basin that stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and sits atop the United States' biggest natural gas deposit: the Marcellus Shale.

Under proposed new regulations, the DRBC said it will provide water for no more than 300 natural gas wells over 18 months, at which point they will reassess the rules.

The delay has frustrated drillers and the governor of industry-friendly Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, who is keen to develop the state's slice of the basin.

"Today's delay -- driven more by politics than sound science -- is a decision to put off the creation of much-needed jobs, to put off securing our energy independence, and to infringe upon the property rights of thousands of Pennsylvanians," Corbett said in a statement.

Concerns have arisen over fracking, the drilling technique used in the Marcellus to extract gas from shale by pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into rock underground.

While fracking has led to huge increases in natural gas production in the United States, environmentalists say it contaminates water sources, sparking opposition to drilling in the Delaware Basin, which provides water for millions of homes across four states.

New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing the DRBC for not completing an environmental study on fracking before releasing its regulations.

Photo shows the Delaware Water Gap.  Credit:  ShutterstockSongquan Deng

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