DRBC Postpones Vote to Finally Allow Safe Gas Drilling

The five voting members of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have decided to postpone a vote scheduled for Monday to finally, after a years-long delay, allow some (a teeny, tiny bit) of gas drilling to proceed in the DRBC’s jurisdictional area. It seems environmental groups have convinced both Delaware and New York to vote against the new drilling regulations—regulations that have been vetted repeatedly in public forums, with public comments, reworking, refining and with multiple delays. And because two of the four states who belong to the DRBC are voting no, at least one other state (NJ) wants to wait.

Obviously anti-drilling forces want no drilling. They are not interested in safe drilling—a total and permanent ban on drilling is their goal, and the DRBC is the place they want to start with it. A permanent ban in the DRBC is the antis’ “stake in the ground.”

This is the entire press release issued by the DRBC on Friday:

New Meeting Date Still To Be Determined

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) — The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today announced that the special meeting scheduled for Nov. 21 to consider draft natural gas development regulations has been postponed to allow additional time for review by the five commission members.

No additional information is available at this time.

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin. The five commission members are the governors of the basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

Please visit the commission’s web site at www.drbc.net for updates as they become available.

Clarke Rupert, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 260, [email protected]
Kate O’Hara, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 205, katharine.o’[email protected](1)

The official release sure doesn’t say much. This analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The delay in the vote, which was to have been taken Monday, was apparently prompted by Delaware’s announcement Thursday that it would vote no.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey were expected to vote yes, while New York was thought to be voting no. It was less clear which way the vote would go from the fifth commission member – the Army Corps of Engineers, representing the federal government.

Either way, there was a likelihood of a 3-2 vote, a glaring lack of consensus on a prominent issue that was potentially going to split on party lines, said Maya van Rossum, head of the nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

"The intelligence that we’re gathering is that when Delaware announced that it was not going to support the regulations, essentially the feds and New Jersey got cold feet," van Rossum said.

Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said that the agency viewed the proposed regulations as strongly protective of the environment, but that there was no rush if changes were needed.

"If other states still have questions that they feel need to be addressed, we would obviously want them to have an opportunity to make sure they can resolve those issues," Ragonese said. "The goal is to get it done correctly."

Gov. Corbett, on the other hand, voiced impatience. "Pennsylvania is ready to move forward now," he said in a news release, charging that the delay was "driven more by politics than sound science."

In a statement, the president of the industry’s Marcellus Shale Coalition, Kathryn Klaber, also urged action, arguing that drilling has lead to more jobs and access to cleaner-burning fuel.

"The vocal minority calling for less energy development are simply ignoring the American people’s basic needs," Klaber said.(2)

(1) DRBC Press Release (Nov 18, 2011) – DRBC Postpones November 21 Special Meeting

(2) Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov 20, 2011) – DRBC delays controversial vote on fracking rules

  • Drill, Safely, Drill — NY Shal

    I wonder if this delay wasn’t basically orchestrated by DRBC staffers.

    The meeting setup — a big auditorium — was going to be perfect for the one-trick-pony anti’s again playing victim in a staged drama.  That was going to be an unappetizing pre-Thanksgiving day for NJ and Obama’s Army Corps.  (PA, I gather, has already had enough of this nonsense.)

    Not even Congress decides stuff in such a wide-open space.  It would have been a lot simpler for the governors to just vote in a board room and announce the result: 3-2 is what it is, and so let’s let the landowners of NE PA move onward, already.

    The next question:  What does PA need the DRBC for?  It’s getting to the point where the benefits of this union are far exceeding the costs — measured in either dollars, PR, or environmental health.  PA already knows how to regulate drilling.  It should simply quit, or else formally challenge the DRBC for regulatory overlap and mission creep.

  • Anonymous

    The DRBC vote, either way would have ended the DRBC imposed moratorium. A yes vote would have put regulations in place for overseeing drilling by DRBC. A no  vote would have ment the DRBC did not choose to place new regulations in place to oversee drilling. In either case the need for the moratorium would have been relieved.  With NO VOTE happening some would argue that there should continue to be a moratorium in place however the decision to postpone the vote came from DRBC itself because apparently they were unwilling or unable to agree amongst themselves on the DRBC role in all of this going forward. Since they can not get a clear definition for themselves on the DRBC role in Gas Activities, action should be taken to allow the individual States to determine their own regulatory roles.  DRBC can still excersise its presence by considering applications on a case by case basis as permits go through the proper State channels.  DRBC never had the power to regulate projects like gas pads. They were designing regulations that would be precident setting in that they would assume authority over this new land based activity in the water shed.  They always have had authority over any water use these projects would require. They also already had authority over potential waste streams and pollution. They wanted these new drilling regulations to become their new ” cash cow” with fees generated to help them be better funded on the back of the Oil and GAS industry.  Not that they dont deserve fees for important work that they might be able to do in the future but until now the DRBC was funded by each member State and sometimes the FEDS. Each State is to an extent accountable to you and I as voters and tax payers. DRBC commissioners are appointed by the governors of the States they represent and tied to those purse strings by our votes. 

    IF DRBC becomes self funded they are even less accountable to you and I, the voters and taxpayers in this picture.

    The Compact that gave birth to the DRBC,  was created in President Kennedys administration to lessen conflict over the joint water resource between the states.  Now I see the DRBC making conflict rather than resolving it.  This commission is causing delay after delay with no adequate resolution in sight. They need to step aside or get it together.  PA has been patient enough with this fickle semi federal agency. These delays are looking more and more like an unconstitutional taking of property rights of PA land owners by other states.  Where are you PA you need to protect the property rights of all P ennsylvanians, including those of us in Wayne and PIke County!

    Good luck to us all!  Marian

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