A group of Pennsylvania senators is joining in an ongoing lawsuit that questions the authority of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the river basin.
Senators Lisa Baker, Joseph Scarnati and Gene Yaw have filed to join a lawsuit brought by a landowners’ group called the Wayne Land and Mineral Group, LLC (WLMG), according to The River Reporter. The original lawsuit by the landowners sought to reverse a decision by the DRBC not to issue a permit for an exploratory well.
The senators’ motion to intervene questions whether the DRBC has the authority to prevent hydraulic fracturing in the basin. In a motion to join the suit, the senators claim the DRBC has worked around existing Pennsylvania state laws (specifically Act 13), according to the Pocono Record.
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.
In 2010, the DRBC voted to postpone well drilling in the basin until the commission could adopt further regulations. Proposed regulations were released in 2010, and revisions were published in 2011; however, the DRBC has not voted on final regulations and has not set a timeline for doing so. Until the DRBC approves the regulations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) will not issue permits for drilling. Earlier this year, the commission announced that it would hold public hearings in response to public safety concerns surrounding construction of a pipeline that would potentially carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation to interconnects near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Mercer County, New Jersey.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) also filed to join the landowners’ lawsuit, citing a need to ensure that health and safety issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing would be addressed. The DRN is a nonprofit organization created to protect rights to “pure water, clean air and a healthy environment,” according to its website.
The suit is entering the discovery stage, according to the Pocono Record, but a timeline for the process has not been published.