The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) continues to obstruct drilling in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. The latest energy company to experience frustrations in dealing with the DRBC is Hess, which holds leases to 126,000 acres in Wayne County, PA:
“It’s a big issue,” said Gene Linscomb, a Hess Corp. business manager based in Honesdale. “We’re asking them [the DRBC] for input.”*
The thing is, the DRBC has not approved a single, solitary Marcellus shale operation in the watershed. Not one.
The commission, a West Trenton, N.J.-based regulatory authority that has jurisdiction over water resources in the 13,539-square-mile Delaware River watershed, has yet to green light a single natural gas production well.*
Hess has been asking the DRBC, repeatedly, what they want them to do so Hess can begin to drill.
The [DRBC] has stated it does not intend to be a roadblock to natural gas development – something many Wayne County residents who signed leases do not believe.*
So what is the DRBC doing? They’ve requested $250,000 to do a study about drilling in the Marcellus Shale in the watershed. They’re hoping to get federal money for the study “late this year.” In other words, they’re not doing anything. If you’re a landowner in the Delaware River Basin, or a drilling company, don’t hold your breath for drilling to begin any time soon.
When will the new Marcellus shale drilling regulations be ready in New York State? That’s the multi-million dollar question for both energy companies and landowners. Pro-drilling groups are pushing for the new regs to be released by early summer, but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the agency tasked with rewriting the regulations, is now making noise about “late summer or early fall.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis, speaking to the state Business Council on Thursday, said the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) could be finalized by late summer or early fall, according to media reports.
The reports also indicated drilling permits could be issued by the end of the year.*
According to Richard Downey, a landowner and member of the Unatego Area Landowners Association:
“This is the first time he’s [Grannis] said it and I tend to believe him,” Downey said. “My own opinion is the man has always kept his word and his own schedule.”*
MDN notes with some amusement how news is manufactured—and is thankful blogs are around to help set the story straight. Case in point: A few days ago the Associated Press ran a single story about the “raging debate” over gas drilling in Northeast Pennsylvania. While the drilling debate is certainly ongoing, and there are plenty of people on both sides of the debate, the AP story would have us believe the forces of good (people against drilling) are rising up in overwhelming numbers to oppose the forces of evil (the nasty energy companies who want to rape and pillage the unspoiled landscape, along with the greedy landowners who enable them).
That single AP anti-drilling story was picked up by no less than 250 media outlets, including large city newspapers, television stations and everything down to small town newspapers—all in the course of two days. One would have to be blind to miss the coverage and not think, “Maybe there are a lot of people opposed to drilling after all!” And all from a single story run again and again and again.
The AP story starts this way:
A few hundred yards from Louis Matoushek’s Wayne County farmhouse is a well that could soon produce not only natural gas, but a drilling boom in the wild and scenic Delaware River watershed.
Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania’s unspoiled northeastern tip, hoping to tap vast stores of gas in a sprawling rock formation—the Marcellus shale—that some experts believe could become the nation’s most productive gas field.*
But wait, it’s not enough that the villainous drilling companies want to spoil the unspoiled land in PA. While that argument will sway some readers, let’s throw in the thing that works every time, the one thing that will magically turn everyone against drilling: Water.
Standing in the way is a loose coalition of sporting groups, conservationists and anti-drilling neighbors. They contend that large-scale gas exploration so close to crucial waterways will threaten drinking water, ruin a renowned wild trout fishery, wreck property values, and transform a rural area popular with tourists into an industrial zone with constant noise and truck traffic.
Both sides are furiously lobbying the Delaware River Basin Commission, the powerful federal-interstate compact agency that monitors water supplies for 15 million people, including half the population of New York City. The commission has jurisdiction because the drilling process will require withdrawing huge amounts of water from the watershed’s streams and rivers and because of the potential for groundwater pollution.*
PA learns fast. They look over the border at New York where City politicians bleat about the New York City watershed as if drillers are about to poison the water supply of the entire City, and say, “Hey, if it works for them, maybe it will work for us.” And so, the shrill voices in PA have found their argument: Drilling pollutes water. Run the story (i.e. lie) enough times and after a while people will believe it.
Don’t fall for the lie. And landowners: Make your voices heard!