The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is a federal-interstate compact government agency that was formed by concurrent legislation enacted in 1961 by the United States and the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware). Its five members include the basin state governors and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative. The commission has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity-related issues throughout the basin.
Much of the new drilling interest taking place in northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York is targeted at reaching the natural gas found in the Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies about 36 percent of the Delaware River Basin.
In connection with natural gas drilling, the commission has identified three major areas of concern:
1) Gas drilling projects in the Marcellus Shale or other formations may have a substantial effect on the water resources of the basin by reducing the flow in streams and/or aquifers used to supply the significant amounts of fresh water needed in the natural gas mining process.
2) On-site drilling operations may potentially add, discharge or cause the release of pollutants into the ground water or surface water.
3) The recovered "frac water" must be treated and disposed of properly.
While the Delaware River itself is un-dammed, there are 13 dams within the basin that feed into the river. The Commission holds authority to approve any project that will have a substantial effect on the water resources of the basin.
The Commission also has approval authority over energy projects that need to draw water from the basin, including coal plants, biomass plants, and natural gas extraction and power plants.