Written by Steve Tambini
The Delaware River Basin Commission is a federal/interstate government agency that manages the water resources of the Delaware River Basin. On December 7, 2022, the DRBC finalized rules prohibiting the discharge of wastewater from high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) to water or land in the Delaware River Basin and clarifying the circumstances in which water, including wastewater, may be exported from or imported into the Basin. The DRBC invited us to share a commentary commissioned by Delaware’s Bay to Bay News with our readers to provide perspectives on the Commission’s new rules. This commentary is reprinted with permission.
The Delaware River Basin Commission approved a final rule in early December prohibiting the discharge of wastewater from high-volume hydraulic fracturing and HVHF-related activities to water or land in the Delaware River Basin. Existing rules concerning the transfer of water and wastewater into and out of the basin were also strengthened.
By prohibiting the fracturing in February 2021 and now prohibiting the discharge of both treated and untreated wastewater from HVHF and related activities within the basin, the commission has instituted strong, science-based policy and protections for our shared water resources. These actions mark the commission as a national leader on this complex issue.
Further, by discouraging, limiting and providing with greater specificity for the review and imposition of conditions on water importation and exportation, the commission has established additional safeguards that will protect the health of basin residents and preserve the basin’s finite water resources for aquatic life and other uses, now and into the future.
The rule approved on Dec. 7, 2022, was first proposed in October 2021. Over a four-month public comment period, the commission held five hearings and received thousands of written comment submissions on its proposal. The agency greatly appreciates the robust public engagement in this rulemaking process. Our stakeholders deeply value the basin’s water resources and advocate for their protection, and we thank the many individuals who participated for their concern and dedication. We also appreciate the deliberation, including careful consideration of all comments received, by the commissioners, who are the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and the North Atlantic Division commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The commissioners listened, and together through the DRBC, they acted boldly and responsibly.
The commission is a federal interstate agency charged with managing, protecting and improving the water resources of the Delaware River Basin. Established in 1961, the commission was one of the first bodies in the United States to comprehensively and regionally manage interstate water resources. Our agency works to ensure water security for over 13 million people in four states, by improving and protecting water quality; ensuring water availability for the diverse water users in the basin; planning for resiliency in the face of extreme weather, extreme flows and climate change; and addressing water equity for the diverse communities that rely on basin waters.
Its mission to manage, protect and improve the basin’s water resources is rooted in authorities conferred by the Delaware River Basin Compact, which is both federal and state law. The rules adopted in December, together with policies and regulations the commission put in place in 2021, support our mission and demonstrate both leadership and the power of joint action to protect the water resources we share.
Steve Tambini has served as the executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission since 2014.