Environmentalists delivered a record 30,000 public comments opposing natural gas drilling near the Delaware River to federal regulators on Thursday.
The comments to the Delaware River Basin Commission come from residents of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware who oppose "fracking,'' a technique in which water, sand and toxic chemicals are injected to break up shale and release natural gas.
The DRBC imposed a moratorium on drilling in its part of the massive underground Marcellus Shale formation while it drafts regulations for the natural gas drilling industry. Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in the Delaware River basin hoping to tap vast stores of natural gas in the rock formation.
Two environmental groups have sued to stop the exploratory wells that were allowed to proceed despite the moratorium. That suit is pending.
Opponents want to keep the interstate agency from allowing drilling near the Delaware River watershed, which they say could harm water quality for more than 15 million people.
"Hydrofracking is the biggest risk to face the Delaware in its history,'' O'Malley said. "The record number of comments should send a strong message to the DRBC not to give a green light to
Proponents, however, including some property owners, say drilling provides jobs and promotes economic prosperity in the region.
A phone message left with the DRBC on Thursday was not immediately returned.