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Hydraulic fracturing ban unpopular among area lawmakers

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, the sun shines through clouds above a shale gas drilling site in St. Mary's, Pa. In a late gambit to win the battleground state of Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump and his GOP allies have intensified attacks on Joe Biden over fracking, hoping to drive a wedge between the former vice president and the white, working-class voters tied to the state's booming natural gas industry. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

A decision by the Delaware River Basin Commission to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells along the river may not directly impact drilling in northcentral Pennsylvania, but it has drawn its local critics just the same.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, said the ban is not only an assault on a highly regulated industry employing thousands of state residents, but also an example of neighboring states dictating Pennsylvania’s energy policy.

“The commission is using New York’s failed policies to institute a ban on development,” he said. “Pennsylvania has robust rules and regulations in place to protect our environmental resources, which has allowed for the safe development of natural gas in our state. This action serves to undermine economic development and job growth in the region and statewide.”

Yaw noted the Department of Energy in October delivered a report to former President Donald Trump revealing that banning hydraulic fracturing would reverse oil and natural gas growth and return the U.S. to a net-importer of oil and gas by 2025. 

In effect, Yaw noted, it would weaken the nation’s position on a global scale and negatively impact its national security. The report stated the U.S. shale revolution has been the single most significant contributor to the nation’s energy security, he said. 

Environmental groups, citing the dangers of drilling and the climate impacts of fossil fuel production, lauded the Commission’s decision.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said everyone is concerned about water quality.

Government agencies such as the Delaware River Basin Commission, an interstate compact created in 1961, have honorable intentions but can exceed their authority, he said.

“They have morphed into something that in my opinion that was never the intent of their formation,” he said. “Do they serve a purpose? Yes.”

The new rules reportedly prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuels within the basin.

No decision was made on whether to allow treatment of wastewater from fracking outside the area. The Commission also delayed a decision on whether to allow water from the Delaware basin to be used in fracking elsewhere.

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, could not be reached.

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