No legislative relief for the UDRBC
The managing director of the Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens (UDRBC) would like the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to be abolished or neutered in the hope that shale gas extraction would then be allowed within the Delaware River Basin (DRB). He recently wrote his view of the June 11 dog-and-pony show held by the House State Government Committee (HSGC) of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
This committee hearing followed Sen. Lisa Baker’s (R) election-year gimmick bill (#1189) that would define a ban on shale gas extraction as a “taking” of property requiring compensation to be paid to all (?) property owners within the Pennsylvania portion of the DRB.
Bill #1189 is a gimmick for several reasons: First, it would not survive a veto by Gov. Tom Wolf. The Republicans in the House currently have 121 members, and they would need 136 to override a veto. I don’t see 15 Democrats abandoning Gov. Wolf.
Second, how can the speculative shale gas extraction process undertaken in areas defined by the “Godfather of the Marcellus,” Professor Engelder, as being on the wrong side of the Lackawanna syncline, be evaluated for compensation? Whether there is profitable gas to be extracted even in the areas north of the “line of death” (Engelder’s name for the Lackawanna syncline) is highly debatable. How can anyone evaluate compensation even in that tiny area?
Using the entirety of Wayne County as an example, there are approximately 40,886 individual property owners. The database for Wayne County compiled by The Citizens Voice newspaper in 2010/2011 listed approximately 3,491 Wayne County property owners who had leased for drilling. This amounts to a ridiculously small number of 8.5% of the tax-paying property owners in all of Wayne County.
Unfortunately for the 91.5% that had not leased, the 8.5% owned approximately 52% of the land surface of the county.
The absurdity of Sen. Baker’s proposal becomes even clearer when one takes into consideration the entire Pennsylvania portion of the DRB, or even just Pike County.
Whom is Sen. Baker representing? Whether a ban is a “taking” is an issue for the Federal Courts to determine, not Sen. Baker and her other local Republican colleagues, who seem interested in supporting only those property owners with large areas of vacant land in Northern Wayne County.
The managing director of the UDRBC attempted to ridicule the executive director of the DRBC, referring to Mr. Tambini as a “witness for the minority” (?) who quickly dissipated into a “disorganized and frustrated” tone.
He finds Mr. Tambini’s assertion that the authority at the DRBC lies not with him or the staff, but with the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, to be laughable.
These governors are the voting commissioners at the DRBC, along with the federal government, represented by the Army Corps of Engineers. It must be extremely difficult for usually strong proponents of “states rights” to be confronted with the cold reality that the governors of all four states within the DRBC support the ban. Now, they all look for salvation from the federal government and federal courts.
After eight years, the UDRBC arrives late to the table. It’s unfortunate that Pennsylvania state senator Baker, along with Rep. Mike Peiffer, support only the UDRBC efforts while dismissing the reality and view of the large majority of their constituents in the DRB.
Those who are interested in the actual eight-page- long statement made by Mr. Tambini, as opposed to the UDRBC managing director’s perspective, can read it at https://bit.ly/2KD2OT2.
[James Barth is a resident of Beach Lake, PA.]