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November 26, 2014
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editorial

A tale of two states: now, what about the river corridor?


March 1, 2012

Recently there have been two important but very different legal developments on the two sides of the Delaware River. Both are related to the ability of municipalities to zone the location of natural gas drilling. Both have a significant potential to affect the health and welfare of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.

The Upper Delaware Council (UDC), the body formed to administer the River Management Plan (RMP) for the river corridor, has said that modern techniques for natural gas extraction are a heavy industrial use. The RMP designates heavy industrial activity an incompatible use anywhere in the river corridor. The UDC has therefore held that keeping surface activities related to natural gas drilling out of the corridor is necessary to preserve the qualities for which the area was designated in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. But the RMP is written in such a way that that law is effected entirely through state and local government—and largely via zoning. And that means that the legal context provided by the states for such zoning is critical.

On the Pennsylvania side of the river, that context has been effectively destroyed by the passage of legislation which, incidental to imposing impact fees on natural gas drilling, creates a system of statewide rules that supersede local ordinances with regard to the location of drilling. Those rules allow gas drilling pretty much everywhere, at least as a conditional use. The state, in short, has rendered local municipalities impotent to implement the rules that could keep drilling out of the corridor. The townships are being forced into a position where they cannot conform with the RMP.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania signed on to the RMP. It has a delegate on the council. There is an executive order in effect that state agencies will comply with the plan. And yet, Pennsylvania has taken an action that disables UDC member townships from complying with the plan with respect to this heavy industrial use.

In the end

The only ones to comment on shale gas drilling issues in the corridor, or Sullivan/Wayne/Pike/Delaware Counties, will be TheHick and his fellow traveler Blythe.

The River Reporter is asleep, or uncaring about their own rules. There is no room for false pen names. TheHick is obvious, as is TheNatural. Marj H. Bates, and George Blythe resemble reality, but they are not.

If TRR wants reality, it will find a way to enforce it's own code of regulations.

Until then, real people will not comment. This is not productive.

Not productive? That's for

Not productive? That's for sure.

An excellent opportunity

I see an excellent opportunity here to put this whole debate to rest. We shall have a science experiment using the scientific method. On the New York side of the river we shall have the control subject with no drilling and wonderful ordinances and what not. On the PA side of the river there will be rampant drilling with no ordinances whatsoever. The tributaries from either side can be monitored extensively for several years prior to drilling, during drilling and then several years post drilling. Thus baselines can be established and fair assessments of changes in water quality can be accurately measured and compared. In the end we will know conclusively which side was correct and to what extent.