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Friday, August 5, 2011


Lawsuit charges that an analysis must be completed and environmental
impacts understood before drilling moves forward in the Delaware River
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – A coalition of concerned nonprofit organizations today jointly filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and the
Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for their failure to comply with federal law by proposing gas drilling regulations without first conducting
a full environmental review as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The coalition includes the National Parks Conservation
Association (NPCA), Riverkeeper and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, represented by attorneys from each organization and the Columbia
Environmental Law Clinic. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York where the Army Corps office is located.
“With 5.4 million visitors annually, the Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area are
national treasures that must be protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said Cinda Waldbuesser, Pennsylvania Senior
Program Manager for NPCA. “The economic benefits of natural gas development must not compromise the long-term benefits of protecting water
quality and preserving our national parks, which are already economic generators for local communities.”
Covering approximately 48,000 square miles, the geological formation called the Marcellus Shale occurs beneath the states of New York,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Nearly 36 percent of the Delaware River Watershed is underlain by
Marcellus Shale. Industrial and academic assessments estimate that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas could be recovered from the
formation with tens of thousands of natural gas wells anticipated in the Delaware River Basin alone. According to the legal documents filed, the
impacts to water quality and quantity, air quality, recreation and the wildlife within and near treasured lands like the Upper Delaware National
Scenic and Recreational River and Delaware Water gap could be severe, and should be analyzed in an environmental impact study before drilling moves
"When it comes to natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Watershed, the public has not had equal voice in the debate with the politicians and
the drillers,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “The DRBC and the Army Corps have both rejected their obligation to protect the
River and the common good by issuing draft gas rules without the required comprehensive environmental studies. They have allowed politics and their
annual budget to drive the drilling debate within their agencies. Today, our organizations are rising up in defense of the River and the public
good — we are enforcing the law so as to ensure good science, facts and common good are the drivers from here on out.”
“The Delaware River Basin provides fifty percent of the clean, unfiltered drinking water that nine million New Yorkers depend on daily,” said Kate
Hudson, Riverkeeper Watershed Program Director. “This critical resource should not be put at risk by allowing drilling to proceed in the Basin
before a complete environmental impact assessment has been carried out as the basis for developing the most effective regulations possible. Absent
that review, there is no assurance that the regulations the DRBC is poised to finalize will be adequate to control a risky industrial activity that
has already caused documented environmental and human health impacts in other states, including Pennsylvania. No one’s drinking water should be
sacrificed in the rush to pursue exploitation of methane gas deposits that have existed for millions of years,” Hudson adds.
While scientists have long known about the resources of the Marcellus Shale formation, modern advances in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are
granting access to the country’s shale gas reserves faster than ever before, especially in Pennsylvania. Fracking involves pumping millions of
gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into a well, fracturing the shale and releasing the natural gas trapped within. Companies are not
required to share information publicly about the chemicals used in this process. While all harmful impacts of natural gas development have yet to
be fully understood, impacts may include:
Health concerns for local communities and the environment including water contamination related to drilling and the disposal of drilling
Reductions in stream flow and ground water levels;
Air quality degradation; and
Impacts to the regions national parks including wildlife, night skies, soundscapes and cultural resources.
The Delaware River is the largest free flowing river east of the Mississippi and its water quality is exceptional, which merits it special
protection under DRBC regulations. The DRBC, an agency that includes the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and the Army
Corps of Engineers, regulates activities within the Delaware River Basin.
The agency has proposed new regulations for natural gas development without first conducting an environmental impact analysis, and neglects to
provide sufficient protections for local communities, the environment and nearby national parks. As a federal agency, the DRBC must comply with the
National Environmental Policy Act and consider the cumulative environmental impacts of a proposed action, and inform the public that
they have carefully analyzed these impacts in its decision-making process.
About the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA): Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading
voice of the American people in the fight to safeguard our National Park System. With more than 600,000 members and supporters, NPCA is the largest
independent membership organization dedicated to protecting our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and
grandchildren. For additional information, please visit
About Riverkeeper: Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization whose mission includes safeguarding the environmental, recreational and
commercial integrity of the watershed that provides New York City its drinking water. Riverkeeper is actively involved in advocacy and public
education surrounding the issue of natural gas development in the New York portion of the Delaware River Basin, in particular because of its
potential impacts on the watershed and a pristine New York recreational area. Riverkeeper has been New York’s clean water advocate for over 44
years, and has served as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes nearly 200 Keeper programs across the country and
around the globe. For more information on Riverkeeper, please visit
About Delaware Riverkeeper Network: Delaware Riverkeeper Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense and restoration of the
Delaware River Watershed since 1988. Members live throughout the watershed in New York Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. For
additional information, please visit

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