Copyright Marcellus Shale Coalition
After a seven-year de facto moratorium on natural gas development near the Delaware River, the Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”) took steps last week to begin the process of enacting a formal ban on drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania’s northeastern tip, including Wayne and Pike Counties. The Commission adopted a resolution directing the executive director to prepare and publish by November 30th, a revised set of draft regulations for public comment to address natural gas activities in the Delaware River Basin.
Created in 1961 as a partnership between the federal government (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, the DRBC is charged with oversight of water quality, withdrawals, droughts, floods, conservation and permitting for the Delaware River and its tributaries. The Delaware watershed, which stretches some 330 miles from the Delaware River’s headwaters near Hancock, NY, to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, supplies drinking water to roughly 15 million people, including half of New York City.
About one-third of the Delaware River Basin in New York and Pennsylvania lies above Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits. Thousands of wells have been drilled in other parts of Pennsylvania since the natural gas boom began, but the industry has been prevented from developing its acreage in the Delaware watershed since the DRBC stepped into the natural gas debate in 2010. Neighboring New York already enacted a ban on drilling within its borders in 2014, citing health concerns.
After review of more than 60,000 public comments, the DRBC five-member panel was scheduled to vote on a set of drafting regulations for the gas industry in 2011, but abruptly cancelled amid opposition from some Commission members and environmentalist groups lobbying for a more extensive environmental impact study. Until last week, there had been little public movement on the issue since, leaving the region in limbo.
The new resolution passed by a 3-1-1 vote, with New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware approving, while New Jersey abstained and the Army Corps of Engineers rejected the proposal. “Banning the safe, tightly-regulated development of American natural gas is great news for OPEC, but it’s bad news for working families,” said David Spigelyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group. “We strongly encourage DRBC to make sound public policy based on facts and science, not politically-charged hyperbole.”
For more information on the DRBC and the resolution, click HERE.