March 13, 2013 —
WEST TRENTON, NJ — A meeting of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) was disrupted by a large group of protestors who sang and chanted and refused for a time to let the regular business of the commission take place. The protestors represented various environmental groups and said their number at the meeting was about 140.
Maya van Rossum, whose title is Delaware Riverkeeper, told the commissioners that the crowd was going to hold a spontaneous “people’s hearing” on pipelines. The DRBC declared a recess and the crowd began singing “This Land is Your Land.”
The DRBC then reopened the meeting and held a lengthy public hearing to allow the protestors to express their views. The aim of the protesters was to get tree clearing and other work halted, specifically on the loop around Milford, PA, part of the Northeast Upgrade Pipeline Project (NEUP), which would be used to transport gas from fields in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania into New Jersey.
Van Rossum said, “The DRBC has the legal authority to review and approve the pipeline before it would be allowed to enter through or within any portion of the Delaware River watershed.”
A post on the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website underscores that view. It says, “DRBC has the authority, right and, we believe, the obligation to reopen the very limited water withdrawal docket they issued for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline NEUP and require a cumulative analysis and public hearing before a docket and the project can go final.”
But the DRBC sees it differently. The commission has determined that they do not have the authority to review pipeline plans except under a couple of limited circumstances, such as when a pipeline runs through a state forest.
According to a press release, the group’s testimony from the unscheduled public hearing ran for more than two hours with the crowd “defying commands that they comply with a pre-determined order that they limit their comments to two minutes and speak from the front of the room at a microphone that the commissioners would turn off after each two-minute time.”
When the testimony was over, van Rossum and others demanded that the DRBC take a vote on whether they would halt the pipeline. The commissioners declined to do so and, not being able to continue with any other business, the commissioners eventually left the building.