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Delaware River Fracking Vote Called Off

A scheduled vote on hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin has been canceled.

A scheduled Monday vote in Trenton on whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin as early as the start of 2012 has been canceled, according to Delaware Riverkeeper.

In a release posted Thursday night, the Riverkeeper Network said the Delaware River Basin Commission canceled the upcoming vote, thanks in part, they believe, to the outpouring of disapproval from thousands of residents of several states in the form of letters, calls, and public protests.

At the meeting, President Barack Obama, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware were expected to decide if as many as 20,000 locations along the Delaware River could be drilled for natural gas. With the Delaware River providing drinking water to an estimated 15 million people in the most densely populated part of the country, concerns were raised over the safety of the operation, especially in such a large scale.

On the Save the Delaware River blog, Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland, a film highlighting the dangers of the still largely untested drilling process, applauded the efforts of those who fought against the drilling plan.

“This is not a complete victory by any means,” he wrote. “We still do not know when the DRBC will reschedule their meeting. Could be ten days, could be a month, could be a year. So stay tuned and stay ready.”

According to Delaware Online, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said his state would vote against the drilling plan. Inadequate terms for state and local environmental safeguards as well as insufficient public review of the proposal were cited as reasons for the projected no vote, the article states.

Fracking is a method of drilling into shale rock with highly pressurized fracking fluid thousands of feet underground, well below, gas companies say, the ground water people drink. The fluid carves veins into the rock, which then cracks, releasing natural gas. The gas is then brought to the surface in a liquid.

The drilling method has been used for some time throughout the country, starting out west in Colorado before spreading east. Fracking, which was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005 – meaning there’s little to no oversight when it comes to the undisclosed chemicals present in fracking fluid or studies about the potential health risks the practice can cause – has been linked to several health issues. In some cases, homeowners were awarded court injunctions or settlements after proving that fracking caused illness.

Proponents of fracking say it creates jobs and is a way to help the United States gain energy independence.

At an Occupy meet-up in Red Bank, several area residents protested the issue, warning of the impact fracking could have on the environment and New Jersey residents if allowed.

Though New Jersey is not thought to have significant amounts of natural gas, the impact on shared waterways, like the Delaware, is a concern. Each planned on attending a scheduled rally in Trenton at the War Memorial Monday, though it's not known if the rally will continue.  

“If we don’t take care of (banning fracking), everything else is moot,” 67-year-old Tinton Falls resident Susan DiGiacomo said at the protest. “If our water and air are polluted, nothing else much matters, does it?”

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