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December 09, 2016
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Proposed regs provoke responses

NARROWSBURG, NY — Impassioned outbursts are fairly frequent occurrences during regional discussions of natural gas exploration in the Upper Delaware region these days. Upper Delaware Council (UDC) meetings are no exception and the release of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) Draft Natural Gas Development Regulations has prompted a flurry of concerns related to the process for making public comment on the new regs.

Many say the March 16 deadline is too short. Others are unhappy that email comments will not be accepted. Most are scrambling to draft their responses to the 83-page document developed between DRBC staff and commissioners, and described by DRBC communications manager Clarke Rupert as “an iterative process.”

Ultimately, the staff takes its cues from the five commissioners who represent the states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the federal government. “We would offer a draft, they would give us feedback and we would incorporate that feedback,” said Rupert during the February 3 meeting of the UDC. The proposed regs have been released in order to continue the dialogue and the process, according to Rupert. “The commissioners felt the draft is ready to share with the public to start the rulemaking process.”

It is currently uncertain what will happen after March 16. “It will be the commissioners’ call as to whether changes should be made to the draft regs based on the comments we receive,” said Rupert. “It’s possible that we might have to go out for public comment again. These are unknowns.”

Public questions

Damascus resident Bernie Handler asked whether the DRBC will add any additional public hearings or extend the public comment period. “We’re going to consult with our commissioners on those requests,” said Rupert “What currently stands is what’s in effect now.”

“What real place does the public have in this?” asked
Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability. “Is the public basically an annoyance?” “The public input is important,” said Rupert.

“There were thousands of comments about the water withdrawal from the Lackawaxen River, mostly negative. Yet, the commission passed the water withdrawal,” continued Arrindell. “It’s as if the comments were irrelevant. How is this going to be any different?”