MDN Weekly Update – Nov 20, 2011: Catching Up

catching upA very brief weekly update. MDN editor Jim Willis was traveling most of this past week (making a living with my day job), hence lack of daily updates from Wednesday to Friday. A lot can happen in just a few days! The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held two of four public hearings supposedly on the newest revisions to the draft drilling regulations (Wednesday in Dansville, Thursday in Binghamton)—sessions which devolved into either “drill here drill now” or “ban drilling altogether” arguments as reported by the media. Sorry to miss those hearings!

And on Friday, the Delaware River Basin Commission decided to postpone a vote tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 21) on whether to finally release new drilling rules for land inside of the DRBC’s jurisdiction. Looks like the antis have scored at least a temporary victory.

I’ve posted stories on both of the above items today, plus another hot topic: An update on the situation in Pennsylvania on whether or not local municipalities will have an ongoing role to play in zoning and other laws to restrict gas drilling in their borders.

Continue to vote in the poll for another week, and refer to the rather light calendar of events below for the next two weeks. Seems meetings are light due to the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. later this week.

Be sure to spend time with your family and friends on Thursday, and forget about the politics of drilling for a day!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Jim Willis, Editor

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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.”

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Binghamton DEC Hearing Draws Big & Loud Crowd

Unfortunately MDN editor Jim Willis was not in Binghamton for the Nov. 17 DEC hearing on the newest revisions to the draft drilling regulations that would finally allow shale gas drilling in the state. However, there was plenty of media coverage of the event, which drew more than 1,000 people to the Forum Theatre in downtown Binghamton.

The Nov. 17 hearing was the second of four scheduled public hearings on the new regulations. The final two will be at the end of November, one in Loch Sheldrake (Sullivan County) and one in New York City.

Reporting on the Binghamton hearing from the hometown Press & Sun-Bulletin:

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Compromise Allows PA Municipalities Some Drilling Oversight

As MDN recently pointed out, in Pennsylvania there is an ongoing tug-of-war between the state and local municipalities over how much local governments can regulate activities like zoning that impact shale gas drilling (see this MDN story). Local governments want the ability to allow or disallow drilling in certain areas. The state says that statewide laws should totally “preempt” local laws to ensure fairness and consistency and to avoid litigation by drilling companies which will cause millions in taxpayer money to defend.

There is a compromise coming in new legislation that will continue to allow local municipalities some control over drilling in their locales, while preserving most of the oversight for the state. It’s not a perfect solution, but both sides of the debate are signaling it may be the best solution they can jointly agree on.

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Huge OH Landowner Group Close to a Lease Deal for 80K Acres

The Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley (ALOV) landowner group in eastern Ohio met on Saturday for an update on negotiations with energy companies to lease what may be the largest tract of land offered by a single landowner group in the entire Marcellus and Utica Shale plays. A deal is not yet done, but the president of ALOV, Robert Rea, says they may well have a deal done in the next several weeks.

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