Thursday, June 13, 2024

Delaware River Basin Commission To Develop Its First Climate Resilience Plan; Adopts Amendments To Practice, Procedures Rules

On June 13, the
Delaware River Basin Commission announced that at its June 5 quarterly public business meeting it approved a resolution directing staff to develop a Climate Resilience Plan that includes elements related to planning, consultation, outreach, education and rulemaking concerning climate change.

The Commission also adopted changes to its Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Climate Resilience Plan

“The Commission has significantly advanced efforts to understand and address the threats of climate change in the Delaware River Basin. With a finding that climate change is impacting the Basin’s water cycle, the Commission can move authoritatively toward developing water resources plans and policies for water resource resilience and adaptation,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini.

Actions in each of the Delaware River Basin’s states and at the federal level have already led to climate plans, Executive Orders and other policies that consider observed and anticipated climate-related water resource impacts, as well as impacts to economies, communities and security.

“We strongly support a Climate Resilience Plan for the Delaware River Basin to protect the mighty Delaware River and the New Jersey communities that bathe in its beauty,” said Shawn M. LaTourette, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner and Alternate DRBC Commissioner. “A plan for the Basin will complement the work being done through DEP’s Resilient NJ program to help municipalities mitigate climate change impacts, such as chronic flooding that degrades local water quality, and ensure land use decisions are made through the lens of climate resilience. 

“In addition, a holistic plan for the Basin directly supports the state’s Climate Change Resilience Strategy and would improve coordination between the Basin communities to better protect public health, infrastructure and businesses. 

“We look forward to working together through the Commission, as we have done for more than 60 years, to strengthen the resilience of the Delaware River Basin communities,”  said LaTourette.

The State of New Jersey currently chairs the Commission.

The DRBC’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change reviewed the resolution and provided valuable input. The Commission launched the ACCC in 2019 to provide the Commission and the Basin community with expertise, information and advice.

“The Commission’s ACCC is proud to have provided valuable connections to academic researchers, environmental organizations, water-using industries and water and wastewater utilities, allowing DRBC to tap into the latest climate-related science and seek input on studies, vulnerabilities and future scenarios,” said ACCC chair Howard Neukrug, Founding Director of the Water Center at Penn.

Climate change impacts the Commission’s mission to ensure an adequate and equitable supply of suitable quality water for Delaware River Basin water users and the environment.

“We already are seeing impacts from climate change such as rising sea levels, which may require increased stored freshwater releases in the future to sufficiently repel salt water or risk having water users face costly treatment or avoidance, as well as projected increases in the intensity of precipitation events, which may increase flood events,” said Kristen Bowman Kavanagh, the DRBC’s Deputy Executive Director and liaison to the ACCC.

The DRBC’s activities will focus on water resources matters within the authority and jurisdiction of the Commission. These do not include setting or implementing greenhouse gas-reduction goals.

Click Here to read the resolution adopted by DRBC.

A draft version of the resolution was published on the DRBC’s website, and a public hearing on the draft resolution was held on May 8. Written comments were accepted from April 26 through May 13.

Regulation Changes

The Commission also approved changes to its Practice and Procedure Regulations to better align the Commission’s project review procedures with current practice and provide clarity to several Commission processes, including how project approvals not otherwise assigned expiration dates are terminated, extended or renewed.  

This rulemaking also removed inaccurate references to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) within the Commission’s Public Access to Records regulations.  The rulemaking did not otherwise modify the Commission’s Public Access to Records regulations.

The Commission made several changes to the final regulations in response to comments received from the public, including clarifying who may approve extension requests, adding eligibility requirements for extension requests, and expanding the public process for extension requests.  

Differences between the final rule and the rule as proposed are detailed in the final rule’s accompanying Comment and Response Document.

Click Here for more information on the final rule.

For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the Delaware River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for regulator updates.  Follow DRBC on TwitterVisit them on YouTube.

[Posted: June 13, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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