Appalachian Basin

Gov. Corbett to DRBC: Finalize Natural Gas Regs

It has been three years since the Delaware River Basin Commission issued a moratorium on natural gas development in its region to allow time to review and adopt new regulations. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is now urging the DRBC, on behalf of his constituents and theirs, to stop delaying and pass the regulations.

Pennsylvania, as we all know, is located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale, and as such has benefited tremendously from the economic impacts natural gas development has brought to the state. That is, if you’re located in the Susquehanna River Basin or in the western part of the state.

Folks living in the DRBC region of the eastern part of Pennsylvania, however, have been under a natural gas moratorium for three years now, and residents are growing tired of missing out on the benefits of responsible development.

The commissioners from Wayne County, which sits atop the Marcellus but is unable to develop the natural gas because of the moratorium, were on the Dave Madeira Show earlier today to discuss a letter they recently sent to Carol Collier, DRBC Executive Director, expressing their frustrations over the delay and asking for a decision to be made.  As Commissioner Brian Smith said in the interview:

 “They became more and more interested, I think, it’s my opinion, in shutting down the process as opposed to actually just working with the gas industry to try to create an industry in our neck of the woods in the Delaware that could have been productive, could have gave us economic sustainability for a long time, could have gave us money to work on our roads. It could have gave the people who live there the stability and the buying power to sustain our economy locally and that’s been taken away from us.” (1:50)

Governor Corbett also sent a letter this week to Collier expressing the “frustration and disappointment” his constituents have experienced due to the delays, and urged the DRBC to make a decision. You can read the letter by clicking here, but we’ve highlighted some of the key excerpts below:

Dear Ms. Collier:

I am writing to convey a profound sense of frustration and disappointment on behalf of my constituents due to the inaction of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in finalizing standards with respect to the safe and responsible development of natural gas.

Adoption of this moratorium – namely through the postponement of consideration of well pad dockets – was purportedly done to allow for the drafting of appropriate standards that would protect the water resources of the basin.  However, deferring the submission of applications until regulations are adopted presumes that regulations will, ultimately, be adopted. That has failed to occur.

This moratorium has done more than prohibit the citizens of Pennsylvania who reside within the basin from enjoying their property rights. It has depressed economic growth in the region, discouraged the investment of private capital in the Commonwealth, and reflected poorly on the DRBC’s ability to function effectively.

Moreover, since the DRBC’s scheduled November 2011 meeting to consider adoption of final rules was cancelled, Pennsylvania has significantly enhanced environmental protection standards through passage of Act 13 in February 2012.  Act 13 represents the first comprehensive update of the state’s Oil and Gas Act since 1984, incorporating proposals from the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The citizens of Pennsylvania residing within the basin have been denied the enjoyment of their property rights due to the inaction of the DRBC. Operators interested in developing natural gas have closed offices and laid-off employees; lease payments have been withheld; force majeure clauses in contracts have been exercised, and communities have watched their neighbors outside the basin benefit tremendously. In addition to this inequity, the DRBC’s inaction may very well constitute a ‘taking’ under the U.S. Constitution, subjecting its members, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to financial and other legal ramifications.

Hopefully the residents of Wayne County won’t have to wait another three years for a decision from the DRBC and will soon be able to take part in the growing natural gas industry that has so significantly benefitted much of the rest of Pennsylvania.

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