Susan Phillips and Jon Hurdle report for StateImpact:
Defenders of a longstanding de-facto moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin say there are gathering signs of a renewed push to allow natural gas production by the industry and its allies.
Environmental groups including Delaware Riverkeeper Network say officials from the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is composed of representatives from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the federal government, have been in talks with member states about finalizing work on oil and gas regulations that began before a de-facto moratorium was imposed seven years ago.
Opponents of any move to open the basin to shale gas development also worry about a lawsuit brought by a group of Wayne County landowners who challenge the DRBC’s right to regulate drilling.
And they fear that there will be new pressure from the Trump administration, via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, its representative on the DRBC, to allow gas drilling at the eastern edge of the Marcellus Shale.
The debate over gas drilling near the Delaware River dates back seven years. In May 2010 the DRBC’s five Commissioners voted unanimously to hold off on any decisions regarding drilling in the Delaware River Basin until new regulations were adopted. The de-facto moratorium imposed by the Commission prevents drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania’s Wayne and Pike counties, as well as parts of southern New York, until the DRBC establishes its own regulations. If their rules are more stringent than state regulations, the DRBC rules would trump those in Pennsylvania.
In early November, 2011, the DRBC posted draft regulations, but cancelled the vote by commissioners after then-governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, said he would vote against them. Since then, the commission has remained silent on gas drilling, while commission staffers worked behind the scenes. New York has since banned fracking.