Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

DRBC Responds to Pro-Drilling Critics

A farm in Wayne County sits on top of the Marcellus Shale formation. Drilling has not begun in the area of the state that drains into the Delaware River.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Coccadrilli Brother's dairy farm in New Canaan, Wayne County sits on top of the Marcellus Shale formation. Drilling has not begun in the area of the state that is part of the Delaware River Basin. Frustrated leaseholders threatened to sue the DRBC.

The Delaware River Basin Commission isn’t getting much love these days. In just the past couple of weeks, the Commission’s executive director Carol Collier has gotten critical letters from Sen. Pat Toomey, Gov. Tom Corbett, the Wayne County Commissioners, and a group of leaseholders called the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance. Each of the letters express frustration with the Commission’s lack of movement on implementing new gas drilling regulations, and urged lifting their de facto moratorium.

The Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance went a step further and issued an ultimatum to the DRBC. The Alliance told Collier that if the DRBC does not move forward by scheduling a vote on the proposed regulations, or choose to step aside by Wednesday, the group will file a lawsuit. The DRBC did neither. But the new Chair of the Commission Michele Siekerka, who represents New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, did make a statement about the letters and listed what the Commission staff has been doing since a scheduled vote on the new regulations was cancelled back in November, 2011.

- reviewing new scientific studies on the effects of natural gas development on water resources;

- benchmarking  new regulations, best management practices and performance standards adopted by other states, federal agencies and organizations;

- using what has been learned to identify a level of minimum standards – a regulatory floor  for natural gas development in the Delaware Basin that will protect its shared water resources;

- performing water quality and quantity monitoring to establish baseline conditions prior to the onset of natural gas development in the basin; and

- with the help of a grant from the William Penn Foundation, developing a tool for evaluating the impacts of land-based development on water resources, to facilitate informed planning and assess effects.

A spokesman for the Delaware River Basin Commission says that although the letter writing campaign was aimed at the executive director, the Commissioners, who are appointed by the governors of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the federal government, made the decision to hold off on any permitted gas drilling activity until new regulations are adopted, and chose to cancel the scheduled vote.

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