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River panel debates PA water rule

By David Hulse
March 12, 2014

NARROWSBURG, NY — Issues related to natural gas drilling so deeply divided the Upper Delaware Council last week that at one point they gave up trying to comment on proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s proposed 25 PA Code Chapter 78 regulations.

According to the PA Bulletin announcement, those extensive regulatory changes propose to update various “standards to strengthen environmental protections associated with the development of oil and gas wells.”

Because of weather-cancelled meetings and debate about how drafts of UDC correspondence are distributed, the council’s comments entered a third month of review in March.

The issue seemed far from settled when the latest two-page draft was coming up for adoption on March 7.

Berlin Township’s Al Henry objected to language saying the River Management Plan “defines modern day exploration practices for natural gas exploration as Heavy Industrial Uses, and therefore incompatible…” Henry said the 1986 plan makes no reference to fracking and “we can’t just make it up.”

David Dean of the Town of Deerpark said “Deerpark objects” to language proposing restrictions in the regulations regarding to “state or national scenic rivers” be expanded to include “any unit of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

Dean said the change could impact land values, and he expressed doubt about the existence in PA of other National Wild and Scenic Rivers. It was suggested that the line be changed and appended with the phrase “…in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

James Greier of the Town of Fremont and George Fluhr of Shohola Township had questions about the suggested prohibition of residual well brine “for dust suppression and anti-icing.” Greier referred to allowable roadside spraying of toxic defoliants and Fluhr had concerns about restrictions on localities’ use of calcium chloride in road de-icing.

Cochecton’s Larry Richardson argued that many towns have already prohibited the spreading of residual well brine on local roads.

A vote ensued, and the comment letter’s adoption was defeated 6-5, with Cochecton, Highland, Lumberland, Tusten and Lackawaxen in the minority. Delegates from Westfall Township and New York State were absent, and Pennsylvania’s new delegate abstained.

“If we can’t comment on an important thing like this, we shouldn’t be here,” Richardson said after the vote. “The ‘no’ voters need to take a step back.”