A moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, a 13,000 square mile drainage area encompassing New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, is planned to end next week. The Lehigh River is part of the Delaware River Watershed.

On Nov. 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission will be voting on lifting a three-year moratorium on natural gas development, which includes the hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus shale deposits.

The voting members of the DRBC included the governors of the four member states: Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY), Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Governor Jack Markell (DE), and Governor Tom Corbett (PA), and the federal representative, Colonel Christopher Larsen of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

There has been an outpouring of interest. Over 69,000 public comments were received during the public comment period that ended on April 15, 2011. A barrage of letters and phone calls were received over the past two months since the meeting was set. The meeting will be held at the War Memorial in Trenton, N.J. from 10 a.m. to Noon. on Nov. 21.

There will be no public hearing and no opportunity for public input into the new version of the regulations at the meeting,. A vote to approve gas regulations would lift the current moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin.

According to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, approval of the gas drilling regulations would allow over 18,000 hydraulic fracking wells to begin construction in the Delaware River Basin.

Ten years ago, no one except geologists had heard of Marcellus Shale. In 2003, a promising flow of natural gas was observed from a Marcellus drilling in southwestern Pennsylvania. The first production well was drilled in 2005. By the end of 2007, over 375 wells had been permitted in Pennsylvania. By the end of 2010, over 2,300 Marcellus wells were drilled in Pennsylvania. Between 100,000 and 300,000 Marcellus wells are envisioned to capture an estimated 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the shale.

Each well uses up to five million gallons of fresh water, and eight out of every 10 gallons remains underground.

The Marcellus Shale gas industry is growing exponentially. The DRBC Commission is planning to allow the states to regulate the gas exploration. Environmentalists see that billions of dollars are at stake and the gas industry has been investing its resources, not only in gas exploration but in public relations, lobbying and campaign contributions.