The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) today welcome Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-17) to discuss what hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" could mean for national parks and trails, including the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, and how the public can help to protect them. NPCA's recent report, National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing: Balancing Energy Needs, Nature, and America's National Heritage, examines the impact of existing, proposed, and potential oil and gas development near America's national parks and offers recommendations to ensure future drilling safeguards are considered to protect public health and the environment.
"I applaud the great work done by both the National Parks Conservation Association and the Appalachian Mountain Club," said Cartwright. "We must do all that we can to protect our national parks, not only here at the Delaware Water Gap, but throughout our state and country. In Congress I have been working hard to make fracking as safe as possible by introducing legislation to eliminate loopholes provided to the oil and gas industries."
Locally, in the Delaware River Basin, a drilling moratorium is currently in place. However, should the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) move forward with enacting regulations, the moratorium could be lifted. The DRBC is an agency that includes the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and the Army Corps of Engineers and is charged with regulating natural gas development in the region. The DRBC has started drafting regulations without first conducting a full environmental review, a cause of great concern to local communities and many advocacy organizations, including AMC and NPCA.
"If drilling begins in the Delaware River Basin, the Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area could be harmed by fracking and from associated development like compressor stations and pipelines," said Cinda Waldbuesser, Delaware and Pennsylvania Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "With more than 5 million visitors to the parks in 2011, who spent $158 million, the Upper Delaware and Delaware Water Gap are economic generators for the region and is home to one of the cleanest rivers in the country. We applaud Congressman Cartwright's efforts to protect our national parks and must not sacrifice our most important natural areas to develop oil and gas."
Fracking is a relatively new extraction method that is now responsible for 90 percent of domestic oil and gas production, with thousands of wells scattered nationwide. The number of wells is expected to skyrocket during the next two decades. As outlined in its recent report, NPCA and advocacy groups are concerned with the impacts to national parks from the use of fracking near parks, including noise, development, visual impacts, and water pollution. Other major concerns include impacts to human health and national park resources from air pollution generated during the fracking process through actions such as methane gas flaring and leakage, water pollution, and a diminished water supply.
"We are already seeing the negative impacts to public parks and trails from nearby natural gas development in many rural areas of Pennsylvania, areas that depend on the eco-tourism economy," explained Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club. "People who love to hike, camp, fish, and paddle are telling us that the air, noise, and light pollution from nearby drilling is impacting their experience along trails and campsites that they have visited with their families for many years," said Zakutansky. "NPCA's report shows that natural gas drilling will continue to threaten our public parks and trails, unless reasonable steps are taken to keep our national parks off limits to drilling, new pipelines, and related infrastructure."
For additional information, the AMC recently launched Marcellus Shale's Greatest Treasures, an online tool showcasing the first-hand accounts of recreational users speaking to the impacts of natural gas development on public parks and trails in Pennsylvania.