Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York Approve Resolution To Permanently Ban Fracking In Delaware River Watershed

The Governors of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York, comprising a majority of the Delaware River Basin Commission, announced Wednesday they had voted in favor of a resolution put forward by the commission to issue draft regulations to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Delaware River Basin.
The DRBC vote was three to one with one abstention in passing the resolution for promulgating regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for developing oil and gas resources by high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he was pleased to see the DRBC take a step forward after years of study. “Today, we are acting to protect a watershed that supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people in one of the most densely populated areas of the country. I believe this resolution preserves water quality and water supply for the residents of the watershed, and will protect this precious resource for generations to come,” said Gov. Wolf. “I have supported this resolution since I was a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, and I am proud that we have worked collaboratively to move this process forward after almost a decade of work at the DRBC.”
Delaware Gov. John Carney said that the DRBC resolution is consistent with the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, a bill introduced by Carney and passed by Congress in 2016, by helping to ensure that the water resources of the basin will be protected for present and future generations.
“Fracking could diminish water resources in the Delaware River Basin, both through consumption and degraded water quality,” said Gov. Carney. “We are pleased to join both New York and Pennsylvania in voting in favor of this resolution, which will protect public health, and a precious water supply. This action will guarantee that fracking for oil and gas will not threaten water resources in the Basin.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “Protecting and preserving our water resources is paramount to ensuring the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers and of all residents living within the Delaware River Basin,” Gov. Cuomo said. “With this resolution, the DRBC builds on New York’s leadership to protect the environment and public health from hydraulic fracturing, while protecting this vital water source that millions of people depend on every day. ‎I am proud to stand with my colleagues from Delaware and Pennsylvania in approving this critical resolution and we will continue to work on developing the necessary regulations to codify this commonsense resolution.”
The Delaware River Basin, which drains from portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, supplies drinking water to more than 15 million people.  
Governors of the four basin states and a federal representative serve as Delaware River Basin Commissioners, tasked with overseeing a unified approach to managing the river system without regard to political boundaries.
The Commission has oversight in the basin for water quality protection, water supply allocation, regulatory review (permitting), water conservation initiatives, watershed planning, drought management, flood loss reduction, and recreation.
The DRBC resolution comes after Congressional passage last December of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act.
As jointly authored by then-Congressman Carney and Delaware US Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act requires federal, state and local partners to work together and preserve the basin. Congress passed the Act as part of a larger national legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
Development of oil and gas using hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River basin has been an issue since 2010, when the DRBC’s five commissioners voted unanimously to “postpone consideration of well pad dockets until regulations are adopted.”
This action effectively placed a de facto, temporary moratorium on drilling for natural gas in several Pennsylvania counties and parts of southern New York.
Since 2011, the DRBC and the signatory parties have undertaken extensive discussion and research efforts related to unconventional shale gas drilling which resulted in the resolution passed today.
Click Here for a copy of the resolution.
The Delaware RiverKeeper and other groups issued a statement Monday saying while they were happy over the prospective of action on a fracking ban, the group said it was disappointed there could still be drilling wastewater disposal and water withdrawals from the Delaware Watershed to support fracking.
“With this resolution, the DRBC is poised to roll back the high level of protection from drilling and fracking for shale our watershed now enjoys.  While posturing the possibility of a ban on fracking in some parts of our watershed, the resolution opens the door wide to many of the most devastating impacts that drilling and fracking for shale brings to waterways and communities.  As a result, we must oppose it,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition and the PA Chamber of Business and Industry sent a joint letter to Gov. Wolf prior to the vote which said in part, “prohibiting the development and enjoyment of one’s property rights based solely on which watershed a citizen may live or own property in is arbitrary, and sends a chilling message – far beyond the reaches of just the natural gas sector – to those who may be contemplating investing capital and creating jobs in the Commonwealth.” Click Here for a copy of the letter.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson):  “For nearly a decade, natural gas development in Pennsylvania has taken place in a safe and environmentally responsible way, while contributing to our economy, creating good-paying jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign fuel.  This decision is arbitrary, overreaching and will hurt landowners in northeast Pennsylvania who have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars in lease and royalty payments.  Why should their mineral rights be invalidated but their neighbors outside the basin are not?  This decision is based on faulty data and will hurt our economy and our workers.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre): “The Governor has long claimed that he supports natural gas development in a safe and responsible manner. In the last year, the state has significantly enhanced its regulations governing unconventional wells. The strong regulations were designed to better protect our natural resources while encouraging shale development, which translates into a stronger economy, increased employment opportunities and lower energy prices. Joining this moratorium instead shows his willingness to pander to special interests.”
Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Majority Chair Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming): “It’s disappointing that DRBC, with the support of the Governor, is using New York’s failed policies to institute a ban on Marcellus Shale development in the Delaware River Basin. We have robust rules and regulations in place to protect our environmental resources which have allowed for the safe development of natural gas in Pennsylvania. This action serves to undermine economic development and job growth in the region and statewide.”
Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), issued the following statement regarding Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to support draft regulations to impose a natural gas drilling ban in Wayne and Pike counties:
“Across a wide area of northern and southwestern Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling is providing jobs, boosting the prospects of small communities, lowering energy costs, and giving our state an energy advantage in the competition for keeping and bringing in jobs.  State regulations have been stiffened, enforcement strengthened, and impact fees are being collected and distributed to affected communities. There is certainly more to be done, but we have recognized and responded to concerns about environmental impact and community safety.
“Given this reality, to assert that drilling is an intolerable threat to water supplies just over the hill is remarkably inconsistent and contradictory. For the governor to so enthusiastically support a ban in one watershed is impossible to reconcile with his statements or justify in any economic or policy terms. Why would Pennsylvania cast a deciding vote to move forward toward a ban when there is active litigation filed by its citizens to lift the moratorium? The only explanation left for people is politics.
“This decision appears to be another example of state government having a severe disregard for rural areas.  It is essential that the commission convene public hearings in Wayne and Pike counties to hear from those whose lives and livelihoods will be diminished by this action, and those who have consistently demonstrated that they are good stewards of the land, the water, and the environment. They have a deep appreciation of the principles of fairness and equality.
“There will likely be an argument made that this action constitutes a “taking” that would require considerable compensation to landowners. I intend to explore and pursue any available legislative remedy in this direction.
“There is also a legitimate concern that this is the beginning of an assault on other economic enterprises. The impact here is not necessarily limited to natural gas drilling. The anti-economic activity wording in the resolution could be applied to agricultural enterprises and many other activities that have an impact on water supplies.”
Senators Scarnati, Baker and Yaw attempted to intervene in a landowner court challenge to the DRBC de-facto moratorium on drilling, but the request was denied by a federal court judge in January.
The landowner challenge itself was thrown out by a federal judge, but the landowners have appealed.
Natural gas development background information can be found on DRBC’s Natural Gas webpage.

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