Energy. Environment. Economy.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s New Rules for Radicals

Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images

An aerial view of two farms along the Susquehanna River.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission wants to make sure their public comment sessions don’t turn into public protest. The Marcellus Shale boom has thrown the previously obscure agency into the public spotlight. The SRBC is tasked with regulating water withdrawals along the river’s 444 mile route from its headwaters in Cooperstown, New York, down to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where the river empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Drilling opponents disrupted a meeting in December, protesting the Commission’s role in permitting water withdrawals for fracking. In a press release announcing their public meeting next week, the SRBC reiterates its new rules, including the requirement to show a photo ID.

  • All persons must sign-in and show photo identification.
  • Signage, posters, banners or other display media will be permitted only in designated areas.
  • The press will be permitted to set up and use video and recording devices in a designated area.  The public will be permitted to use small, hand-held devices that remain in their possession and are used in a non-disruptive manner.

The Commission’s meeting in February was more orderly. But Commissioner’s got an earful from environmentalists who say the SRBC is neglecting its duty to also regulate water quality. Unlike the Delaware River Basin Commission, the SRBC has always maintained its role is simply water quantity. But environmental groups disagree. Damascus Citizens for Sustainability recently filed a public records request from the SRBC, which could indicate a forthcoming lawsuit.

An attorney for the group, Jeff Zimmerman, said the SRBC has allowed gas drilling to proceed full steam ahead, while neglecting its duty to protect water quality.

“We’re concerned that SRBC may be ignoring its water resources protection obligations and letting gas development proceed largely unchecked,” said Zimmerman. “We’re taking DRBC to task for the way it has failed to put the science first when it comes to developing gas regulations, but things may be even worse with the SRBC.”

Damascus Citizens is one of the more vocal groups pushing the Delaware River Basin Commission to continue its moratorium on drilling.

The SRBC says it does not have the authority to regulate drilling based on water quality issues and it won’t be taking any public testimony at the March 15 meeting in Harrisburg. But with water withdrawals for drilling companies such as Anadarko, Cabot Oil and Gas, and Carrizo, on the docket, expect some sort of outcry.
The SRBC includes four commissioners, one representing the federal government, and one each for the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.


  • nathansooy

    SRBC took comment and testimony from citizens at its last  meeting in Harrisburg.  The SRBC Commissioners from Maryland and New York were not there to hear what people had to say.  How can they make a decision without seeing the faces of those who are affected by their decisions?  And how can New York and Maryland continue to be a rubber stamp for anything that Pennsylvania wants to do on Fracking?

    On March 15th, the SRBC Commissioners will not be taking testimony.  But given the fact that all of the Commissioners did not hear from people at the last meeting, I would not be surprised if people decided to have something to say to the Commissioners anyway on the 15th.

    When our elected and appointed officials are not willing to hear from the people, the people must do what is necessary to be heard.

    Nathan Sooy
    Clean Water Action

    • Tim Ruggiero

      When the elected are not willing to listen, then they need to replaced with someone who will. Every elected person represents the people who elected them. Appointed people are just that-and usually by the Governor-so replace your Governor. 

    • Mike Knapp

       ROFL   @ you patting  yourselves on the back for acting like a bunch of spoiled, obnoxious babies and disrupting public meetings.  Your elected officials are happy to hear from you, you just don’t like what you’re hearing back, which apparently grants you the right to invoke temper-tantrum-esque outbursts?  This is a democracy, and the people have spoken consistently, resoundingly, and LOUDLY.  They want gas drilling to continue.  SRBC is not meant to regulate gas drilling.  That’s what the DEP is for.  Jumping up and down while crying that you haven’t been able to instill a backdoor de facto ban on drilling like you have in the DRBC isn’t going to get you far in the eyes of rational people.  So you keep jumping up and down, while the rational adults continue to operate things. 

      Mike Knapp
      Knapp Acquisitions & Production

      • Mike Knapp

        Thank you so very much for helping to make my point! This is a perfect example of  the level of maturity that has come to be associated with anti-gas drilling extremists. 

      • Patrick_Walker

        It is a sign of devastating ignorance–and lack of love for America and her freedoms–to say this is a democracy. In fact, it’s a PLUTOcracy–government by the rich who can afford SuperPAC contributions and K Street lobbyists. A number of Nobel Prize-winning economists, Pulitzer Prize-winning writers and investigative journalists, eminent Constitutional lawyers, and public-interest groups like Common Cause say so. Your own self-interested support of gas drilling–I assume that’s what your “Acquisitions & Production” amount to–disqualifies you from an objective stance on this issue, and certainly from saying you speak for the common good.

        I–who have in many cases not received a word of response from legislators to my impassioned pleas, citing highly prestigious scientists who favor a slowdown or moratorium on drilling–am deeply insulted by your saying “your elected officials are happy to hear from you.” Sheer BULLSHIT!–and it doesn’t even matter if you (as my wife and I have) have lost $60,000 in property value and the market for our home because of proximity to drilling. Who from our NYC metro area target market would want to live in Gasland?

        Do you seriously expected the politically appointed DEP to regulate drilling? Another ignoramus statement. DEP officials have testified UNDER OATH to rubber-stamping permits in 35 minutes. DEP Secretary Michael Krancer shamelessly speaks at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts that promote the industry he’s charged by oath to regulate, and rebuked the EPA for its attempts to investigate the water situation in Dimock. The same DEP, per an AP story, couldn’t account for 1.2 million gallons of toxic drilling wastewater.

        And your assertion that “the people have spoken” shows how little you value freedom. In fact, “the people” who have spoken were either desperate farmers or selfish large landowners who stood to make significant royalties. Third parties who stood to have their lives disrupted, their landscape made ugly, their property values savaged, and their environment and health put at risk by this highly experimental form of drilling were NEVER duly informed or given any  say at all. Even the poor farmers were frequently lied to and bullied by landmen, and many now regret their decision to lease.The industry engages in systematic misinformation campaigns (like saying, “We’ve been doing this 60 years.”), and well-lobbied PA legislators use their bully pulpits to spread this misinformation.

        What you have in PA is a bunch of bought-off politicians (like Tom Corporate or Joe “Super Bowl” Scarnati) who, based on a mere electoral victory, wrongfully assumed they were given a mandate to let the gas industry have total dominion over our state. Act 13 was the last straw. People deprived of a voice in their government and any chance for justice are FORCED to resort to disruption and civil disobedience; they, like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, are the REAL adults. But I imagine you prefer that they’d have stayed colonials and second-class citizens–which is exactly what the gas industry has made most Pennsylvanians.

  • Liz Rosenbaum

    On Thursday morning, March 15th at the Capitol Building in
    Harrisburg, PA, the SRBC will convene for a
    public vote on over 60 permit applications for water withdrawals. If you can’t be there to protest, in the prescribed, roped-off back corner of the Rotunda (don’t forget your photo ID), please joint the Phone Blitz on Wednesday, March 14th. Visit to learn more!!

  • Ernest G. Wilson II

    I see as usual big business runs government.

    If you don’t like flag burning, wait until you see big business urinate on the constitution!

    FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLYThe First Amendment prohibits government from abridging “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” People are entitled to assemble and to speak and be heard, as long as they remain nonviolent. This basic freedom ensures that the spirit of the First Amendment survives and thrives even when the majority of citizens would rather suppress expression it finds offensive. This right is guaranteed against unreasonable federal and state restrictions and interference.
    Oh, I see, if we call them “Radicals” it is OK to ignore their constitutional rights.After all, we know “Radicals” don’t deserve rights.

    The Chesapeake Bay estuary can easily absorb more crap and drinking water in Pennsylvania is really nobody’s concern. 

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