Pennsylvania

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Water utility executive tapped to lead Delaware River Basin Commission

A view of the Delaware River from Bucks County, Pa.

Mary Cummings Jordan / WHYY

A view of the Delaware River from Bucks County, Pa.

The multi-state agency that manages water in the Delaware River Basin has tapped a Pennsylvania American Water executive to be its new leader.

Steve Tambini will become the Delaware River Basin Commission‘s fourth executive director.

While the commission’s jobs include managing water quality, water withdrawals and flood mitigation, one of its most salient responsibilities in the last five years has been to come up with regulations for natural gas drilling in the basin. That’s something the commissioners - the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware and the federal government – are still struggling to agree upon.

“We are pleased to welcome Steve Tambini as the DRBC Executive Director,” said Commission Chair Pro Tem Michele Siekerka, who represents New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in a statement. “Steve’s background and experiences are sure to be of great benefit to the ongoing work of the commission.”

Tambini has had a long career with American Water, a major North American water and sewer utility, working previously in Missouri and New Jersey. He currently serves as Vice President for the company’s Pennsylvania operations.

Tambini also serves as a board member of the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin, a nonprofit group of businesses and utilities with water management interests in the basin.

Gas drilling has been on hold in the Delaware watershed since 2009 when as executive director, Carol Collier issued an order that all natural gas production would need to be reviewed by the commission. The ongoing stalemate has frustrated Governor Tom Corbett, as well as landowners who were eager to lease with drilling companies. Environmental groups are happy to see the moratorium on drilling stay.

Seth Gladstone with Food and Water Watch called Tambini’s appointment “suspicious and disconcerting.” Pennsylvania American Water is an associate member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the state’s major gas industry trade group.

Tambini did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. In a written statement released by the DRBC, Tambini wrote that he will not make further public statements or conduct DRBC business until he assumes his duties on Aug. 1, 2014.

“For the past 30 years, my professional life has been dedicated to water,” Tambini wrote. “I believe my career experiences, water resources knowledge, leadership skills, and core values will serve me well as I continue the excellent work of those who preceded me in meeting the DRBC’s present and future challenges.”

A DRBC spokesman said Tambini will not be present at a meeting on Wednesday when the five commissioners formally approve his post. The DRBC’s Chief Administrative Officer Richard Gore will also be named acting executive director. He will replace Carol Collier, who is set to retire on Wednesday after 15 years.

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