DRBC to meet this Wednesday on resolution
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WEST TRENTON, N.J. – The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on Monday, September 11, announced its intention to consider a resolution banning natural gas drilling and associated development. The ban would effectively be limited to The four Pennsylvania counties of the Poconos, Wayne Pike, Monroe and Carbon counties, was well as portions of adjacent PA counties where the gas is found and is currently not under a prohibition by DRBC or any other agency.

WEST TRENTON, N.J. – The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on Monday, September 11, announced its intention to consider a resolution banning natural gas drilling and associated development. The ban would effectively be limited to The four  Pennsylvania counties of the Poconos, Wayne Pike, Monroe and Carbon counties, was well as portions of adjacent PA counties where the gas is found and is currently not under a prohibition by DRBC or any other agency.
The resolution was put on the agenda for its next quarterly business meeting, Wednesday, September 13, in Newtown, Pa. The resolution, if passed, would direct the executive director to prepare and publish for public comment by Nov. 30, 2017 a revised set of draft regulations to address natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin.
A ban put in place by the DRBC would replace a de facto moratorium on gas drilling activities in place since 2010. Gas drilling has been on hold in the Delaware River basin region, pending a decision on regulations by the DRBC.
Within the four-state region of the Delaware River watershed comprising the DRBC’s jurisdiction, the Marcellus Shale Formation containing the natural gas is limited to the Poconos and nearby counties to the west in Pennsylvania, and in southern New York. A statewide ban, however, was put in place by the State of New York in May 2011.
The moratorium has been hailed by environmentalists concerned about potential harm from hydraulic fracking on the water table. Land owners who leased acreage to drilling companies, particularly in Wayne County, have opposed the moratorium.

Background

A group of landowners in Wayne County filed a federal lawsuit against the DRBC in May 2016, on the argument that the agency does not have the authority to regulate gas drilling. The DRBC has declined comment on the pending litigation.
More than 10,000 Marcellus wells have been drilled in other areas of Pennsylvania in the last 10 years, as close as Susquehanna County.
At the DRBC business meeting on May 5, 2010, the DRBC commissioners unanimously directed DRBC staff to develop draft regulations on well pads in the shales for notice and comment remaking. On December 8, 2010, the Commission passed a resolution postponing the decision in order to review natural gas exploratory well activities in shale formations until either final gas regulations were formed or an application was submitted.
Natural gas development regulations were published the next day, and the comment period closed on April 15, 2011. Nearly 69,000 comments were submitted, and revised draft natural gas regulations were issued November 8th of that year. Since the comment period closed, the DRBC has continued to receive comments and information from many stakeholders with diverse views about developing natural gas in the basin.
The DRBC has also closely followed the developing scientific literature on the impacts of natural has development on water resources.

Sept. 13 meeting
 
The Sept. 13 DRBC business meeting, open to the public, will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will be held at the Linksz Pavilion, Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, in Newtown, Pa.
The resolution to be considered by the commissioners is procedural and, if adopted, would initiate a new phase in the rule-making process.  The commissioners will not be adopting any natural gas development draft regulations at the Sept. 13 meeting.
If the proposed resolution is approved by the commission on Sept. 13, the revised draft rules to be published on a later date would include prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the Delaware River Basin. 
The revised draft regulations would also include provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal or discharge of hydraulic fracturing-related wastewater where permitted and provide for the regulation of inter-basin transfers of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted. 
According to the proposed resolution, the commissioners are directing that the revised draft rules be issued for public comment no later than Nov. 30, 2017.

Public comment process
 
The public input process on the revised draft regulations will include one or more hearings and ample opportunity for written comments.  No action on the revised draft rules will be taken by the commission until the public comment process is completed.  The commissioners will consider changes to the revised draft regulations that may be appropriate based on the comments received.
Details about the public hearing(s) and instructions for submitting written comments will be included in the notice of proposed rule-making.  Interested persons are invited to regularly check the commission’s web site at www.drbc.net for information as it becomes available.
There will be no opportunity for public comment prior to consideration of the procedural resolution at the Sept.13 business meeting. 
After all scheduled business has been completed and as time allows, up to one hour of Open Public Comment may be provided at the discretion of the DRBC chair.  Additional information about the meeting, including the draft resolution and a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs), can be viewed at www.nj.gov/drbc/meetings/upcoming/index.html.
Written or oral comments received before the draft rules are published and the comment period officially opens will not be included in the rule-making record.

For more information
 
Natural gas development background information can be found on the commission’s web site at www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/natural/.
The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries.  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.

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[Editor's Note: More information is planned for the weekend edition of The News Eagle. Anyone wishing to submit a comment on the DRBC announcement is welcome to send it to pebecker@neagle.com or post it here.]