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Brewers, Birds & Philly Residents benefit from NEW Fracking Ban in Delaware River Watershed
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Brewers, Birds & Philly Residents benefit from NEW Fracking Ban in Delaware River Watershed

Huge environmental win: The DRBC permanently banned fracking after 11 years of debate

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) permanently banned fracking throughout the Delaware River Watershed yesterday in a virtual meeting. Four states of the Delaware Watershed (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) and a federal representative for President Biden from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers voted to enact the regulations.

The ban prohibits the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (AKA “fracking”) to extract gas wherever it is located within the basin. The DRBC’s decision was based on fracking water quality and impacts around the activities. The next resolution up for vote could ban the import and export of fracking wastewater and water for fracking in the watershed.

“This has been an epic battle engaged by a huge, diverse, well-informed, and united watershed community,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “The outcome is historic because the Delaware River Watershed is preventing pollution and degradation by their forthright precautionary action to ban fracking.” 

For local non-profit leaders like Elizabeth Brown, Audubon Mid-Atlantic Director of Delaware River Watershed Program, the vote signals the importance of our watershed and human activity on our ecosystem. As Brown described, “Yesterday’s vote really cemented the Delaware River Watershed as a national treasure.”

Fracking’s impact on our fragile ecosystem

With two-thirds of North American bird species at risk of extinction from climate change, every environmental action plays a huge role in our ecosystem. But birds that rely on aquatic species for their food source are especially at risk from fracking. So it’s easy to draw the connection between polluted water from fracking and birds, especially in bellwether species like the Louisiana waterthrush. That’s where Audubon comes in.

As Brown explained, one of the Delaware Watershed focal species, the Louisiana waterthrush is very sensitive to stream conditions. The waterthrush eats bugs that are indicative of water quality (aka Macroinvertebrates), When fracking changes stream quality through acidification or sedimentation, the birds lose their prey or their habitat.

But it’s not just birds that will benefit from this fracking ban. Philadelphia gets its drinking water from the Delaware River Basin, so even though the decision is upstream, it affects our water quality downstream.

Involving Businesses to Brewers in the fracking conversation

Activists and nonprofits were not the only organizations opposing fracking. Brewers Mike Contreras of 2SP Brewing and Timothy Neal Brown of Tannery Run Brew Works testified in hearings on Monday. Both are members of Brewers for the Delaware River.

Brewers depend on watershed management for sourcing and quality of their products. Without the proper protection, brewers would need to find other water sources at a huge cost.

According to Brown, involving brewers sho the business perspective that profit and conservation can go hand-in-hand. As she joked, “it’s not just about birds and people that love birds.”

And just like the brewers came together like the DRBC to protect our watershed. The DRBC is a single entity to managed shared water resources across political boundaries and was (ironically) born out of water disputes. However, yesterday’s vote signals that when we work together, we can protect our national resources for all.

Photo: DRBC on Flickr

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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