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September 02, 2014
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UDC offers support for DRBC


The Upper Delaware Council should be supporting its friends, Tusten’s representative told the UDC last Thursday.

Recalling that a spokesman for New York City’s water supply in June told them that the city is not taking responsibility for the health of the Upper Delaware, Susan Sullivan said the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) should support renewed federal funding of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).

Sullivan said the DRBC is “the only group… doing critical stuff to maintain the health of the river… It seems very important that they continue their work.”

Without the DRBC, “What are we going to do if there is another severe drought,” Sullivan asked. “Sue each other?”

Sullivan referred to legislation newly approved by the U.S. Senate that would restore the 20% share of the DRBC budget that the federal government agreed to supply in 1988. The House of Representatives would have to confirm the Senate action before funding is released.

Despite that 1988 agreement, the federal government stopped funding the DRBC for a decade, 1998-2008, renewed it in 2009 and withdrew it again from 2011 to 2013. According to the DRBC, the cumulative federal shortfall since 1996 is nearly $11 million, or almost double the size of the current DRBC expense budget.

The UDC agreed on July 11 to direct its Water Use Resource Management Committee to draft a letter for council approval.

The UDC action comes as the DRBC is under fire from Pennsylvania officials for its delay in voting on regulations dealing with natural gas exploration and fracking in the watershed.

The basin commission admitted as much in a statement on its website (stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/07/12/drbc-responds-to-pro-drilling-critics/). “The Delaware River Basin Commission isn’t getting much love these days.”

The statement noted recent criticism from Senator Pat Toomey, Governor Tom Corbett, the Wayne County Commissioners, and a threatened lawsuit by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance.

Corbett opened his June 28 letter to DRBC Executive Director Carol Collier, saying, “I am writing to convey a profound sense of frustration and disappointment on behalf of my constituents due to the inaction of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in finalizing standards with respect to the safe and responsible development of natural gas.”

DRBC instituted a drilling moratorium and then cancelled a November 2011 meeting to vote on regulations, and has not rescheduled another vote.

Corbett argued that Pennsylvania has already adopted “first-class standards that have served as a model to other shale-gas producing states across the nation.” The state has “enhanced environmental protection standards through passage of Act 13 in February 2012,” he said.

Critics say Act 13, which stripped local governments of all oversight of oil and gas production related projects, provided carte blanche for the energy industry.

Corbett wrote that the continuing moratorium has injured the region economically and that “citizens of Pennsylvania residing within the basin have been denied the enjoyment of their property rights due to the inaction of the DRBC.”

A spokesman for the Delaware River Basin Commission wrote that, although the letter-writing campaign was aimed at the executive director, the commissioners, who are appointed by the governors of the basin states and the federal government, made the decision to hold off on any permitted gas drilling activity until new regulations are adopted. That’s why they chose to cancel the scheduled vote.