ARLINGTON, VA – CNA today released a report evaluating the potential environmental impacts in the Delaware River Basin (DRB) if restrictions on fracking were lifted.
The DRB spans Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, and provides drinking water to 17 million people. It contains part of the Interior Marcellus shale play that has not been developed due to a moratorium put in place by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The DRBC is considering whether or not to lift the moratorium. New York has a state-wide ban on fracking.
"This research provides information to help understand the potential impacts of fracking before they occur," said Paul Faeth, director of CNA’s Energy, Water, and Climate division and co-author of the report, The Potential Environmental Impacts of Fracking in the Delaware River Basin, "and we were surprised by some of the results."
"If the DRBC and New York moratoriums were lifted, our research indicates that there could be as many as 4,000 wells fracked in the DRB in future years, most of which would be in a few counties in Eastern Pennsylvania and New York," Faeth said.
The report presents an estimate of full natural gas development in the Interior Marcellus and focuses on locations where concentrated development can reasonably be expected in the Delaware River Basin. There are other shale formations in the region that were not considered in the study. Based on projected well numbers and locations for the Interior Marcellus, the authors investigated the potential impacts of natural gas development on land cover, water and wastewater management, water quality, air emissions, and health risk factors. A few key findings:
- The total area of land disturbed in the Delaware River Basin at the completion of gas development of the Interior Marcellus could be about 18-26 square miles, an area roughly equal to 570 to 840 Wal-Mart Supercenters, including parking.
- Development of natural gas infrastructure including well pads, and rights-of-way for access roads and natural gas gathering lines, results in 17-23 acres of land cover disturbance per well pad. There could be between 500 and 1,000 well pads. "Gathering pipelines" (lines used to collect gas from different wells) could account for 75 percent of the land disturbance per well pad.
- Water withdrawals during periods of maximum well development could remove up to 70 percent of water if taken from small streams during low-flow conditions; less than 3 percent during normal flow conditions.
- The installation of multiple compressor stations to support gas development in the Delaware River Basin could as much as double nitrogen oxide emissions in the impacted counties.
- Roughly 45,000 people live within one mile of the projected well pad locations, a distance that has been related to health risk factors in scientific literature. This population is predominantly in Wayne County, PA, where nearly 60 percent of the county’s residents may be affected.
CNA is a nonprofit research and analysis organization dedicated to developing actionable solutions to complex problems of national importance. With nearly 700 scientists, analysts and professional staff, CNA takes a real-world approach to gathering data. Its one-of-a-kind field program places analysts on carriers and military bases, in squad rooms and classrooms, and working side-by-side with a wide array of government decision-makers around the world. In addition to defense-related matters for the U.S. Department of the Navy, CNA’s research portfolio includes criminal justice, homeland security, energy security, water resources, enterprise systems and data analysis, and education.
Note to writers and editors: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as "CNA, a research organization in Arlington, VA."