Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Presenters Urge House Committee To Support Bill Compensating Landowners For Drilling Rights If DRBC Adopts A Fracking Ban

On March 20, the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee heard from witnesses in support of legislation to allow for the compensation of landowners for drilling rights they are prevented from exercising by the proposed fracking ban being considered by the Delaware River Basin Commission.
Thomas Shepstone, Shepstone Management Company, offered comments supporting House Bill 827 (Fritz-R-Wayne) which requiring compensation for oil and gas rights owners in Delaware River Watershed if the Delaware River Basin Commission adopts a permanent ban on fracking (sponsor summary).  (Click Here for more background on compensating landowners and a companion bill in the Senate-- Senate Bill 305.)
Shepstone called the proposed ban on fracking a theft of property rights, while other areas of the state are allowed to develop their natural gas rights.  He said drilling rights owners in Wayne County are the only ones in Pennsylvania not allowed to develop their drilling rights.
His comments were similar to those he offered at a June 2018 House State Government Committee.
Christopher Nestor, Overstreet & Nestor, LLC, who represents clients not allowed to develop their drilling rights, said DRBC has stripped property owners of their rights in contrast with drilling in the Susquehanna River Watershed which is being done safely.  
He said these actions are being taken by representatives of Delaware, New Jersey and New York which have their own bans on natural gas development and only affecting property owners in Pennsylvania.  He noted the fracking ban in the Delaware Watershed is support by the Wolf Administration.
Nestor said legal action has been taken against DRBC on its moratorium on drilling adopted in 2010, but that process has been very slow.
He said if DRBC is denying property owners from exercising their property rights, they should pay for those rights and said he supported House Bill 827.
He said he is also concerned DRBC will use its authority to regulate all types of land use in the watershed, not just drilling for natural gas.
Ned Lang, PA Septage Management Association, said DRBC has exceeded its authority on the proposed fracking ban, overriding the Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania law.
Lang said he is concerned DRBC will use its authority to regulate onlot septic systems and related services like land application of biosolids and supports House Bill 829 (Fritz-R- Wayne) prohibiting the Delaware River Basin Commission from regulating onlot septic systems (sponsor summary).
He said DEP and Pennsylvania already has laws and regulations covering onlot septic systems.
Written comments on these issues were also provided to the Committee by Wayne Campbell, President, State Grange.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing (when posted).
Next Meeting
The Committee has scheduled a meeting for March 26 to consider House Bill 827 and 829 mentioned at this meeting as well as House Bill 828 (Fritz-R-Wayne) authorizes DEP to issue one permit for multiple gas wells on a single pad instead of individual well permits, extends the term of well permits from 1 to 3 years and allows well locations to vary within 50 feet of specific locations identified on the well permit (sponsor summary).  These reforms were included in a DEP white paper Gov. Wolf released in January of 2018.
The meeting will be held in Room B-31 of the Main Capitol Building starting at 10:00.  Click Here to watch the meeting online.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:

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