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