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Proposed regs provoke impassioned responses

March 29, 2011

As the new deadline to comment on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s Draft Natural Gas Development Regulations approaches on April 15, responses are arriving in droves and few are supportive.

Some say the regs are too tough. Others say they’re not tough enough. Many charge that the agency should not move forward until a cumulative impact study has been completed. Others argue that the DRBC should limit its purview to water issues. But the embattled agency stands behind its position that what happens to the forested watershed of the Upper Delaware Region ultimately affects the Delaware River.

Meanwhile, multitudes are weighing in, with more than 4,000 online comments as of March 29. In Pennsylvania, the Wayne County Planning Commission’s (WCPC) harshly toned letter calls the draft regulations “an overreaching exercise and power grab on the part of the DRBC that can lead to countless other instances of the DRBC intervening in local land use issues.

With the right mix of self-proclaimed proactive envelope pushers in place at the DRBC, this first step is all that would be needed to justify the continued growth of DRBC’s intervention in local land use issues.”

The WCPC’s primary complaint, repeated four times, is that the DRBC “should focus solely on the issues of water allocation and wastewater disposal.”

Similarly, the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance (NWPOA) has provided an assessment of its opposition. Some key points that members are encouraged to comment on include NWPOA’s opinion that excessive setbacks and the definition of a water body will prevent drilling on most land in the basin; state and property owners’ rights are not being protected, DRBC is overstepping its compact by getting involved in land use issues and is ignoring economic development of the basin; there is duplication of what is already regulated by the states; the regs are discriminatory against the gas industry, holding them to more severe standards than other water users; and there are no time limits on the DRBC to act, ensuring “death by delay” for important projects.

NWPOA further charges that since the regulations are fee driven, the DRBC “may no longer be dependent on the states for funding and could become a super agency answering to no one.”
Meanwhile, three adjacent New York towns have submitted shared concerns about the risks of natural gas extraction, including “dangers to our citizens’ health, safety, property values and long-term economic sustainability.” The towns of Lumberland, Highland and Tusten assessed the regs individually and worked together to identify points for comment.