There’s still no word from the Delaware River Basin Commission on establishing new natural gas drilling regulations. The DRBC sent out its agenda for the regularly scheduled March 7 meeting, but drilling will not be discussed. What is on the agenda is a new report on conservation strategies for the basin conducted by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It’s unclear how that report may or may not, impact the debate over the new rules.
In the meantime, property owners in Wayne county are getting impatient. The Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance recently met with Governor Corbett and his energy executive Patrick Henderson, to push drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Members of the Alliance say Corbett was sympathetic, but gave no indication of when a vote on the new gas drilling regulations would occur. Corbett of course wants the DRBC to lift its moratorium, and expressed “disappointment” when Delaware Governor Jack Markell helped stall the vote on new regulations last fall.
The NWPOA also sent a letter to the head of the DRBC, Carol Collier, asking her to lift the moratorium. The group’s attorney David Mandelbaum writes that it violates the Constitution, calling it an “uncompensated taking” forbidden by the Fifth Amendment.
“What the Commission is now imposing amounts to a permanent – or at least indefinite – ban on natural gas development. NWPOA acknowledges that regulatory approval programs typically involve delays during which the development may not proceed while the regulator considers an application for approval. Further, some planning programs impose temporary development moratoria while the regulator adopts a plan. But that is not what has happened here. The Staff has developed regulations. The Commission will not adopt them. The motivation of at least some Commissioners for not acting on the regulations is that action might lift the complete ban. That is not a hiatus for planning. That is a prohibition.”
The letter says the DRBC has overstepped its regulatory authority by creating an outright ban on all drilling. It says the agency’s task is to view each drilling “project” on its own merits.
The DRBC created draft drilling regulations but after postponing several hearings on the new rules, no new public meetings on the issue have been scheduled.