Monday, September 24, 2018

Scranton Times-Tribune: State Senators Again Seek To Intervene To Support Wayne County Landowner Lawsuit On Delaware Watershed Fracking Ban

Terrie Morgan-Besecker of the Scranton Times-Tribune Monday reported three state Senators have again filed a motion in U.S. District Court on September 17 in an attempt to intervene in a lawsuit by Wayne County landowners challenging the 2010 Delaware Watershed ban on oil and gas fracking.
The Senators included Senate President President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Lisa Baker (R-Luzene).
On July 3, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal of the Wayne County landowners’ lawsuit on the 2010 Delaware River Watershed ban in March 2017 and remanded the case back to the U.S. District Court for additional hearings.
The Appeals Court did not take a position on the issue of fracking, but remanded the case on the narrow issue of the meaning of the word “project” in the case Wayne Land Mineral Group V. DRBC & Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The Appeals Court said, “Because we conclude that the meaning of the word “project” as used in the [DRBC] compact is ambiguous, we will vacate the order of dismissal and remand the case for fact-finding on the intent of the compact’s drafters.”
In March of 2017 U.S. Federal District Court threw out the lawsuit by the 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.
These same three Pennsylvania Senators--  Joe Scarnati, Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker-- attempted to intervene on the side of the landowners last October, however, their request was denied by Federal Court in January 2017.
DRBC is now considering a formal ban on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, but has no fixed timetable for bringing the ban to a vote.  It is now reviewing some 8,687 comments it received on the proposed ban.
The 2010 moratorium remains in effect.
Legislation Requiring Reimbursement Of Landowners
In June, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee reported out legislation-- Senate Bill 1189 (Baker-R-Luzerne)-- requiring landowner compensation if the Delaware River Basin Commission adopts a permanent fracking ban.
The legislation is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Click Here for more.
Fee On Everyone In Delaware Watershed
At a House State Government Committee hearing in June, Wayne County Commissioner Joseph Adams proposed a $20/month/person fee on all residents of the Delaware River Watershed to pay landowners for lost property value if a fracking ban is permanently adopted.  Click Here for more.
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