Senators seek to join fracking lawsuit; A challenge to DRBC

Posted 8/21/12

HARRISBURG, PA — Three Republican Pennsylvania senators, including Sen. Lisa Baker, have filed to join a lawsuit challenging the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and its authority to prevent …

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Senators seek to join fracking lawsuit; A challenge to DRBC

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HARRISBURG, PA — Three Republican Pennsylvania senators, including Sen. Lisa Baker, have filed to join a lawsuit challenging the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and its authority to prevent hydraulic fracturing within the Delaware River Basin.

In May a group of landowners called Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC (WLMG) filed a lawsuit against DRBC over the fracking ban and the organization’s refusal to issue a permit for an exploratory gas well.

A de facto drilling ban has been in place essentially since 2010. The DRBC members include the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware as well as a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers. To this point the DRBC has failed to adopt new regulations that would cover fracking, effectively creating the ban.

In seeking to join the lawsuit as interveners, the senators’ brief argues that the DRBC has improperly taken the authority of determining who may or may not be able to pursue drilling operation in the basins, while this authority has been addressed through existing state regulations.

The brief says, “Notwithstanding this comprehensive statutory and regulatory framework duly enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, DRBC, through its interpretation of [the interstate compact], has taken upon itself the role of arbiter of who may construct well pads or related facilities and engage in related drilling activities in those parts of Pennsylvania that are contained in the Basin.”

The lawsuit continues to say that state lawmakers have adopted rules that regulate drilling and fracking, which will be meaningless if the DRBC can prohibit anyone from drilling in the basin.

The senators argue that the interstate compact that created the commission does not give DRBC control over gas development, but the DRBC has argued that it has broad authority to provide environmental protection for the basin.

In another move to intervene in the case, back in September, U.S. District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani granted the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s (DRN) motion to intervene in the lawsuit. Lawyers for WLMG had argued against allowing DRN to join the suit, but the judge found that DRN “has demonstrated a sufficient interest and significantly protectable legal interest in this litigation, has demonstrated that its interests may be impaired by the disposition of the action.”

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum said at the time, “It is important that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network was granted the right to intervene so we can ensure the healthy, safety and interests of the public and the natural resources of our watershed are fully protected and defended and that our rights to clean water and a healthy environment are not made subservient to other interests WLMG is seeking to advance or that the DRBC might seek to advance instead.”

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