Appalachian Basin

DRBC Regulations Will Prevent Natural Gas Development

Brian Spray
Project Manager at RETTEW Associates, Inc.
Williamsport, Pennsylvania

The proposed draft DRBC regulations will make much of the land within the Delaware River Basin unusable for oil and gas Development and that is unacceptable. Although the Delaware River Basin has a relatively small share of the Marcellus and Utica Shale resources, the Delaware River Basin Commission seems intent on preventing any development of oil and gas within its watershed.  Many of the companies I work with are focused on fighting the requirement to disclose a five year plan for their oil and gas work. They are fighting for good reason.

The big issues with these regulations are the over-the-top setback requirements and steep slope restrictions. The draft DRBC regulations restrict development within 500′ of ALL wetlands.  The definition is so vague that it would include unregulated low spots and other areas that would not normally be depicted as such.  Additionally, the 500′ requirement is a severe hardship.  In the mid and lower sections of the watershed this standard may be possible to meet. However, anyone who has worked in Northeast Pennsylvania and New York knows, the mountains here are steeper, rockier and have more pockets where water can collect.  This requirement would make large sections of the watershed unavailable for oil and natural gas development.

Along those same lines, the restriction against work within 20% slopes or greater is extremely difficult to accommodate.  In general, we keep well pads, water impoundments and access roads away from these areas due to difficulties with construction; pipelines however would be affected greatly by this regulation. Regardless of your environmental views, the bottom line is the more direct a pipeline runs, the less overall disturbance there is to the natural landscape.

I have been making my clients aware of this regulation as most seem to have forgotten the draft regulations were even released, the DRBC having now sat on them for six months after the hearings.  What is it with this agency, that it cannot seem to get the job done?

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