Thursday, November 2, 2017

House Republican Policy Committee Hears Testimony On Proposed Delaware Watershed Drilling Ban

The House Republican Policy Committee Tuesday held a hearing in Waymart, Wayne County to hear testimony from residents of Northeast Pennsylvania on the proposed Delaware Watershed drilling ban.
The hearing was hosted by Rep. Jonathan Fritz (R-Wayne) who sponsored House Resolution 515 urging DRBC to suspend consideration of a moratorium.  The resolution was adopted by the House October 17 by a party-line vote of 101 to 83 (Republicans supporting).
A resolution adopted by the Delaware River Basin Commission in September calls for publishing proposed regulations enacting a ban no later than November 30.
In April a U.S. Federal District Court judge threw out a lawsuit by a group of Wayne County landowners who said the Delaware River Basin Commission lacks the authority to review and approve natural gas facilities on land owned by the group.
Comments offered at the House hearing included--
Anthony Ventello, Executive Director, Central Bradford Progress Authority, who outlined the benefits of natural gas development to his region saying the economic development impacts are “prolific,” and the industry is helping to develop much-needed local infrastructure, including public water, sewer, clean power, broadband, natural gas distribution, two new hospitals and housing improvements.
Thomas Shepstone, Planning Consultant, provided the Committee with an overview of the authority the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions have over water resources.  He said DRBC wants to “abscond our mineral rights and regulate anything it wishes.”
Vince Phillips, representing the PA Septage Management Association and the PA State Grange, said both groups oppose the proposed ban as a “huge overreach which shows disrespect to Northeast Pennsylvania and its economy.”
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing and for written testimony and letters submitted to the Committee.
Several environmental groups released statements Tuesday in connection with the House Policy Committee hearing--
“Damascus Citizens for Sustainability has tracked and recorded individuals and communities suffering near drilling and its infrastructure for years with more and more peer reviewed science to show the damages that fracking and drilling cause to those who are being impacted. Over and over again the scientific reports show public health suffers greatly near drilling. The drilling industry fought hard to get their exemptions from our major federal environmental protection laws – laws that every other industry has to follow. They did so to escape liability for the damages they knew were unavoidable. Now they want more – to spread their industry even further but we won’t stand for it,” said Barbara Arrindell, Director, and Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.
“Drilling and fracking in our watershed would have devastating health, economic, and environmental impacts. This blatantly biased hearing is designed to ignore all that,” said, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.
Evidence of the growing public support for a total ban on fracking include: the submission of over 65,000 petitions to the DRBC Commissioners in July; hundreds of people attending the DRBC’s public meetings in recent months demanding a permanent and complete ban; and the public’s gearing up for a comment period to commence when the DRBC issues draft natural gas regulations by November 30.
“House Resolution 515 is based not on facts and the law, but is rather an attempt to divide our communities in Northeast PA,” said PennFuture’s President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo.  “The Delaware River provides thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefits from river recreation and clean drinking water supplies.  PennFuture supports the DRBC’s authority to protect this important water resource in Pennsylvania.  This hearing did not intend to seek input from all constituents, but rather served as a one-sided attempt to favor the gas industry over the ecological harm its activities would have.”
Earlier this month, PennFuture sent a letter to members of the House outlining the problems with House Resolution 515, including the basic fact that the DRBC is the steward for the river and has the authority to regulate projects that could impair the water quality of the Delaware River.
“PennFuture supports a ban on natural resource extraction activities in the absence of strong rules to protect environmental interests,” Bonomo said. “For too long, Pennsylvania’s environment has come at the expense of industry profits.  Now is the time for informed and scientifically-supported regulations.”
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Mifflin) serves as House Republican Policy Committee Chair.
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