Proposed regs provoke impassioned responses
The letters commend the DRBC for its commitment to protecting the existing high water quality of the basin, then cite Section 7.4: “Each [project] will involve land disturbance for such appurtenances as roads, well pads, pipelines, impoundments, and compressor stations; and most will entail the withdrawal, diversion, importation into or exportation out of the basin of surface water, ground water, non-contact cooling water, mine drainage water, and/or treated wastewater. These uses may have a substantial effect, either individually or cumulatively, on the surface water and groundwater resources of the basin.”
The towns argue for the need for “thorough and exhaustive scientific studies in advance of industry activity,” including a basin-wide cumulative impact study. “The time to study widespread and multiplied impacts should happen before drilling and especially before the momentum and expectations of the industry become unstoppable and not subject to proper oversight due to the sheer magnitude of its presence in the basin.”
Concerns are also cited for inadequate enforcement capabilities at the DRBC as well as the two primary state agencies it will rely upon, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York Department of Conservation (DEC), both of which have suffered severe budget and staffing cuts.
The towns have also requested extension of the comment period another six months, additional hearings in New York City and Philadelphia and a second round of hearings following publication of the revised draft regulations.
Those on various sides of the issue appear to agree on one matter, charging that the regs provide too much discretionary authority to the agency. “Tremendous discretionary power is given, under these regulations, to the Executive Director and staff,” writes NWPOA. “There is tremendous potential for abuse and the lack of certainty will discourage investment in our region.”
“The draft document makes constant reference to ‘approval by rule,’ which grants the Executive Director discretionary authority to speed up the approval of drilling projects,” notes the Town of Lumberland letter. “We can only see this devolving into a situation where projects become rubber stamped due to the heat of the moment and the high volume of applications—leaving many projects lacking in proper oversight.”
Written comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. on April 15. Visit www.state.nj.us/drbc/ for more information.