Report Looks at Potential Fracking Impacts in Delaware River Basin

This news release is from CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, VA:
CNA today released a report evaluating the potential environmental impacts in the Delaware River Basin (DRB) if restrictions on fracking were lifted. 
The DRB spans Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, and provides drinking water to 17 million people. It contains part of the Interior Marcellus shale play that has not been developed due to a moratorium put in place by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The DRBC is considering whether or not to lift the moratorium. New York has a state-wide ban on fracking. 
"This research provides information to help understand the potential impacts of fracking before they occur," said Paul Faeth, director of CNA’s Energy, Water, and Climate division and co-author of the report, The Potential Environmental Impacts of Fracking in the Delaware River Basin, "and we were surprised by some of the results." 
"If the DRBC and New York moratoriums were lifted, our research indicates that there could be as many as 4,000 wells fracked in the DRB in future years, most of which would be in a few counties in Eastern Pennsylvania and New York," Faeth said. 
The report presents an estimate of full natural gas development in the Interior Marcellus and focuses on locations where concentrated development can reasonably be expected in the Delaware River Basin. There are other shale formations in the region that were not considered in the study. Based on projected well numbers and locations for the Interior Marcellus, the authors investigated the potential impacts of natural gas development on land cover, water and wastewater management, water quality, air emissions, and health risk factors. A few key findings: 
  • The total area of land disturbed in the Delaware River Basin at the completion of gas development of the Interior Marcellus could be about 18-26 square miles, an area roughly equal to 570 to 840 Wal-Mart Supercenters, including parking.
  • Development of natural gas infrastructure including well pads, and rights-of-way for access roads and natural gas gathering lines, results in 17-23 acres of land cover disturbance per well pad. There could be between 500 and 1,000 well pads. "Gathering pipelines" (lines used to collect gas from different wells) could account for 75 percent of the land disturbance per well pad.
  • Water withdrawals during periods of maximum well development could remove up to 70 percent of water if taken from small streams during low-flow conditions; less than 3 percent during normal flow conditions.
  • The installation of multiple compressor stations to support gas development in the Delaware River Basin could as much as double nitrogen oxide emissions in the impacted counties.
  • Roughly 45,000 people live within one mile of the projected well pad locations, a distance that has been related to health risk factors in scientific literature. This population is predominantly in Wayne County, PA, where nearly 60 percent of the county’s residents may be affected.
Reports such as this add to the volume of information available to be cited by individuals and organizations pushing for fracking bans in other areas, including communities in Ohio.

View the entire report below.

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