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DRBC publishes adjusted regulations


November 9, 2011

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on November 8, published newly adjusted gas drilling regulations on its website, www.state.nj.us/drbc/. The new rules call for the development of a Natural Gas Development Plan (“NGDP”) “For Protection of High Value Water Resource Landscapes and Special Protection Waters.”

A fact sheet produced by the commission says, “Through proper site planning, a NGDP will facilitate analysis of potential water resource impacts and the development of measures to avoid and minimize such impacts or, in the alternative, will require mitigation or compensation for them.

“The revised draft regulations continue to require that any natural gas development project sponsor with natural gas leaseholds in the basin encompassing a total of over 3,200 acres or who intends to construct more than five natural gas well pads in the basin may undertake natural gas development projects in the basin only after obtaining approval in the form of a docket issued by the Commission for a NGDP.”

November 21 DRBC vote

The Commissioners have scheduled the meeting early in the morning, in Trenton, N.J. Buses are leaving areas at 5, and 6 in the morning, though, and it could get interesting, despite their attempt to limit the turnout, and to forbid comment.

I have not read the document cover to cover, but several things jump out screaming. The first is that these regulations allow huge, open air, waste fluid pits, which is flat out unacceptable. First, the toxic flowback must be stored on the pad in steel tanks, then they can be trucked? piped (snaking along roads in PVC pipe?), to a central holding pond? Anyone living near that holding pond will suffer immensely, just look at what Stephanie Hallowich's family went through in western PA, for a couple of years.

Next is the reduction of setbacks from wetlands, streams and such from the originally proposed 500' to a now, 300'. Who got paid what to get this through?

Then the DRBC defers to a state like PA concerning the drilling and pad related regulations? PA has a track record that makes a reader sick, let alone anyone living and breathing near an extraction site. The fact that PA DEP recently allowed Cabot Oil & Gas to stop supplying potable water to the families whose water wells the company poisoned states very loudly whose side and agenda PA DEP, and the Corbett Administration, which has received over $1.6 million in campaign contributions from gas and oil extractors, are on.

Governor Christie of N.J. will probably be the second vote to allow the regulations, despite the overwhelming vote of both houses of the legislature in N.J. to ban such drilling and frac'ing in that state.

The vote will probably come in at 3 to 2, and the Army Corps of Engineers, representing the federal component, will most likely be the swing vote. There are several lawsuits pending which demand that the DRBC be compelled to follow the National Environmental Policy Act's requirement that federal agencies undertake a cumulative environmental impact study prior to permitting such industrial activity. What we have been presented with instead of such study, is a proposal to allow open air industrial experimentation upon the watershed and population.

The Delaware River Basin becomes a shale gas extraction laboratory, and the residents become guinea pigs for an 18 month period during which up to 300 well pads may be cleared, and up to 300 wells may be drilled and frac'ed. During this period, the DRBC and Commissioners may evaluate the impacts that are created in our precious watersheds for 15 million people. This experiment is not a study, it is an experiment allowed to be conducted upon the population, and our water, land and air.

This could get interesting. Some people might actually wake up?