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River panel okays basin commission funding support

The Delaware River Basin Commission spokesman Kenneth Najjar, left, reported Thursday that work on the commission’s long awaited natural gas drilling fracking regulations is ongoing. Also pictured is Upper Delaware National Park Service Superintendent Sean McGuinness.
Contributed photo

By David Hulse
August 7, 2013

After a debate and narrow passage at the Upper Delaware Council’s (UDC) operations committee in July, a letter to area congressmen in support of renewed federal funding of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) was approved without opposition by the full council on August 1.

Tusten’s Susan Sullivan had asked for a letter of support at the full council meeting in July, saying the DRBC was the only agency that has consistently supported efforts to maintain the health of the Upper Delaware.

While the UDC letter was in support of legislation in Congress that would reverse a failure of Congress to help fund DRBC for 16 of the past 17 years, it was seen by some as a UDC position on the ongoing controversy over natural gas drilling and complaints about the nearly two-year delay by the DRBC commissioners to bring to a vote regulations on water use by drillers.

According to the minutes of the July 23 operations committee meeting, Delaware representative Harold Roeder and Hancock’s Fred Peckham said they had problems with the letter.

Cochecton’s Larry Richardson asked Roeder if he would penalize a partner on the council (DRBC is a non-voting partner) for its position on gas drilling.

Roeder said that drilling was not the issue, but that DRBC “dropped the ball” in failing to install regulations “to protect the river from anything that could happen,” for four years.

He did not say how reducing the staff’s funding would correct that problem.

Peckham felt that DRBC is also challenging the sovereignty of the states by getting involved with land-use regulations, which is not their mission. He wanted some action, rather than leaving people “just hanging,” he said.

Richardson said that DRBC staff had done its work, but the commissioners—the governors of the four basin states and the federal government—have not acted on the two drafts of the regulations presented to them.

Roeder then suggested that a letter to the commissioners about their delay would be appropriate.

Richardson outlined other areas of DRBC oversight, saying that gas drilling regulation was not their main mission.

At the operations committee meeting, the letter was finally approved by a 3-2 vote, with Shohola’s George J. Fluhr, Lumberland’s Nadia Rajsz and Richardson in the affirmative. Jeffrey Dexter of Damascus and Debra Conway of Highland did not attend that meeting.

Roeder did not attend the August 1 full council meeting, and also absent were representatives from Lackawaxen; Fremont, whose primary delegate Jack Niflot recently passed away; and Westfall, which has not named a current delegate.