The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) announced in September that it will release a revised set of draft regulations for public comment, addressing natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin.
In December 2010, the DRBC drafted and published environmental protection regulations for the watershed that were open for public comment until April 15, 2011. After reviewing these comments, the DRBC then published a revised version on November 8, 2011; however, the special meeting to consider adoption of the revised regulations was postponed until now.
Last year, a group of Pennsylvania Senators filed suit to life the moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin, questioning whether the DRBC has the authority to prevent hydraulic fracturing in the basin. In January, a judge denied their right to participate in the suit.
While no new regulations were finalized at a Sept. 13 meeting, the decision to publish the draft by Nov. 30 pushed the rulemaking into a new phase. The DRBC has not set a timeline for voting on final regulations. Until the DRBC approves the regulations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) will not issue permits for drilling.
According to a DRBC news release, the draft will include prohibitions on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the river basin as well as guidelines to ensure safe storage, treatment, disposal and discharge of related waste.
A full public comment period, including opportunities for written comment, will open after the revised draft is released. Details about that period will be available on Nov. 30.
The DRBC is a regional body with the goal to oversee management of the Delaware River system across state boundaries. It was created in 1961 as an interstate compact in response to a 1954 Supreme Court decision to settle water use disputes among Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey. The DRBC consists of the governors from the four states and the Division Engineer of the North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The DRBC employs a staff of engineers, biologists, geologists, and other specialists.
Updated information can be found at the DRBC website.