Pennsylvania is cutting its share of funding to the agency that oversees issues from water quality to flood management in the Delaware River watershed, the Scranton Times-Tribune reports.
The Delaware River Basin Commission, or DRBC, is run by the federal government and the governors of the four states that share the watershed – New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Under an agreement, Pennsylvania is responsible for 25 percent of the funding for the commission’s work.
Governor Tom Corbett proposed a $500,000 cut in February, which remained in the final budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by the governor on July 10.
However, state funding levels to four other interstate groups – including the Susquehanna River Basin Commission – have remained flat. That has led some critics to believe that the cut to the DRBC is retaliation for the ongoing stalemate over natural gas development in the Delaware watershed.
“In my view, it’s (the cut) clearly retaliatory,” said Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, Havertown, ranking Democrat on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “The governor clearly singles out the DRBC.”
Patrick Henderson, Mr. Corbett’s top energy adviser, said the payback allegation has no substance. “This is about equity for taxpayers,” he said. “This is about the other jurisdictions paying their fair share, and PA ensuring that its taxpayers are not on the hook to underwrite the DRBC’s operations, because other states that are partners have not fully contributed their ‘fair share’ and the federal government has paid nothing.”
The state cut makes for a challenging year at DRBC, which just adopted its own budget to reflect that revenue loss, said spokesman Clarke Rupert. It’s too early in the fiscal year to say what the impact will be on programs or staff, he said.
Natural gas drilling has been on hold in the Delaware watershed for more than four years as the commissioners have struggled to agree about how to regulate it. That has frustrated Governor Corbett and landowners who want to see the regulations passed and allow drilling in the affected counties that sit above the Marcellus Shale.