The DRBC Show About, Well, Nothing!

We all remember the show Seinfeld, don’t we? When the show was proposed by the producers it was meant to be the show about nothing. I began working with EID – Marcellus back in August of last year. My first big project was to keep an eye on decisions being made by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and I even made the long drive to Trenton for an uneventful meeting. It turns out this assignment was a lot easier than I thought it would be, simply because nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened.  The DRBC seems they have fallen off the face of the Earth and residents of Broome, Delaware, Sullivan and Wayne Counties are extremely frustrated at being misused and abused by this do-nothing agency.

This is what the agency is supposed to be about, although that water quality raises issues, given that the states already regulate it and anything the DRBC does is redundant, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

The DRBC is a federal-interstate compact government agency that was formed by concurrent legislation enacted in 1961 by the United States and the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware). Its five members include the basin state governors and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative. The commission has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity-related issues throughout the basin. (from DRBC website)

Back in September of 2011, the Commission  was supposed to vote on whether or not they would allow natural gas exploration in the basin. After this was postponed, we held our breath for October of 2011. While several supporters of natural gas exploration were anxiously awaiting a decision from the panel, they cleared a Tuesday to travel to Trenton, New Jersey to express their support for natural gas development in the basin. Then, a couple of weeks before they were scheduled to head down river, the Commission postponed their meeting again! This time they postponed the meeting until November. Sadly, below you can read how far they have come since then.

The commissioners at their May 5, 2010 meeting unanimously directed staff to develop draft regulations in the shales for notice and comment rulemaking and postponed the DRBC’s consideration of well pad dockets until regulations are adopted. The special meeting scheduled for Nov. 21, 2011 to consider adoption of draft natural gas development regulations was postponed to allow additional time for review by the five DRBC members. There are still some unresolved issues that the commissioners are working through and no new date has yet been announced for a vote on the draft regulations. At the most recent DRBC meeting held on May 10, 2012, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Secrist, as commission chair, announced that the commissioners are convening meetings with their respective technical staff to share information and reconcile concerns regarding requirements of the draft rule. (from DRBC website)

Here’s what two landowners depending on the DRBC to issue regulations regarding natural gas development in the basin had to say about the heart breaking inability of the agency to act, which surely violates principal of due process.  No government agency is entitled to put something into limbo forever, which is the same thing as denying an application with no right of appeal.  Yet, they’re doing it and getting away with it.  List to what Curt Coccodrilli and Dale Teeple had to say about the matter.

The DRBC is touted as a “model agency.” But, we know that it is, and has been, far overstepping its bounds and trying to exert far more power than it should have for too long. Now, by refusing to vote on the regulations, it has instituted an all out ban on natural gas development. It has not done so in so many words, but the effect is obvious from our viewpoint and deliberate from theirs. New Jersey and Delaware should get on the wagon and hold their payments, too.

Governor Tom Corbett’s administration has been pushing the Delaware River Basin Commission to make some decisions.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration has been lobbying neighboring states to approve regulations to open the Delaware River basin to natural gas drilling, a plan that came to a screeching halt in November when Corbett’s counterpart in Delaware said the proposal lacked sufficient public health protections.  “That’s been a frustration since the November meeting was canceled,” said Corbett spokesman Patrick Henderson. “We have been having discussions with the DRBC staff as recently as this week.”

Pennsylvania officials also have been reaching out to colleagues in New Jersey and Delaware to “answer any technical questions they have,” Henderson said. “It’s simply a matter of raising their comfort level and getting the three votes that we need” to adopt the DRBC regulations.  (www.mcall.com)

Exactly why we’re waiting on Delaware is not clear to anyone in the upper basin, but, fortunately, these recent comments by Henderson suggest Pennsylvania is no longer waiting on a state that wrongly implies, for the sake of cheap political points, that it get its water from the Delaware.  We’re now talking about three votes and not worrying whether Delaware, in particular, is on board or not.  Hooray for PA!

Nonetheless, and setting aside the real damages to local residents who still, after 4+ years, don’t know when or if natural gas development will be allowed in their region, the single most frustrating thing may be the fact the DRBC staff has already drafted regulations and simply refuses to vote on them.  This is an outrageous dereliction of duty on the part of Pennsylvania’s fellow Commission members.  This failure is made even worse by the fact natural gas development isn’t really going to be regulated by the DRBC, but the individual state anyway. Take a look at what the DRBC has to say about that!

The revised draft regulations are divided into sections that address the purpose, authority and scope of the rule (7.1); definitions (7.2); administrative processes (7.3); water sources and conditions of bulk water use and management approvals for natural gas development projects (7.4); the protection of high value water resource landscapes and commission-designated Special Protection Waters through mandatory Natural Gas Development Plans for lease holdings of 3,200 acres or more and for all project sponsors who intend to develop more than five well pads (7.5); and the transfer, treatment and discharge of wastewater generated by natural gas development activities (7.6).

The commission will rely on the oil and gas program of the state in which a natural gas well is located to regulate the construction and operation activities of the natural gas well and well pad for which separate administration by the commission would result in unnecessary duplication. If a state or federal regulatory requirement is more stringent than a DRBC requirement, the more stringent regulation would apply. Upon its effective date, which will be 60 days after commission approval, Article 7 would supersede the Executive Director’s Determinations dated May 19, 2009, June 14, 2010 and July 23, 2010. (from DRBC Website)

So it appears we have a situation where the single thing accomplished by the states working together, through the DRBC, is that some member states now won’t allow others to do their jobs.  What purpose is the DRBC serving if Delaware, New Jersey and New York can prevent Pennsylvania from regulating natural gas within its own borders, when that is exactly what the draft regulations propose?  Why would any state allow this to happen?  Wouldn’t New York and Pennsylvania be better served by simply withdrawing from the Commission or not funding it at all?

Delaware River Basin Commission Logo Revised

Possible Revision of DRBC Logo If Natural Gas Impasse Continues

Many landowners in Broome, Delaware, Sullivan and Wayne Counties are banking on natural gas for some help in this wobbly economy.  After speaking with several landowners, it’s become clear these hard working people are wit’s end and ready to sue somebody!  The Department of Environmental Conservation has produced regulations for hydraulic fracturing in New York and these look to be adopted this summer. Pennsylvania has had its ducks in a row with natural gas for some time now, so what are we waiting for?  Why are we allowing New Jersey and Delaware, two states that are primary beneficiaries of inexpensive Marcellus Shale gas, to forever delay things when the latter shows its appreciation by demagoguing about impacts on water they don’t even get from the Delaware?  Natural gas development has been proven safe, the DRBC staff has produced draft regulations and the Delaware River Basin Commission members are still stalling – doing nothing – but this isn’t Seinfeld.  It’s real life and real people are hurting.  Enough already with all this nothing!  It’s time to act before someone gets sued.

 

Comments

  1. Gaszilla says:

    slimy little freaks in suits think no one is watching when we are all, with eyes so big ears are not needed to decipher crumbs dished out as Kilmer’s elixir to the masses not yet mummified, names being written and recorded into the halls of men with purpose and memories that shame the ivory tusked elephants caught with their trunks up. Election day as 4th of July I pledge to no flag freakoids dismantling America’s meaning. Save yourselves, we don’t need it. I pledge allegiance to America “proudly” as a nation under “God” missing from the world war 11 speech written in stone in DC memorial of infamy Dec 7th, 41 . Ashamed that my liberal brothers and sisters deny deny deny and no not what they deny calling themselves saviors of the environment as they tweak their suv’s to spread town board lies while living it.
    God is Good and God is Great
    Tell that man on 60 minutes whose face was burnt to an unrecognizable feature that he was not there for your oil, tell him he suffered still suffers, not for your oil but for solar and wind and he will know as does the Vietnam veteran knows who did not stand behind him. No matter how much you Chip Northrup your words
    Gray dragon lady bragging I sent my son to Canada driving a pickup to you I say
    Drill a well Bring Home A Soldier
    my battle cry and my battle does not end until they pry my cold dead hands away from my keyboard. I will win as I am the voice of the truest environmentalist. I am you because I have seen you use the fuel you deny I know you better then you know yourself

    Drill A well, Free your lying souls

    • FS Blank says:

      By Oil & Gas Financial Journal staff

      Mike Stice, senior vice president for natural gas projects at Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, would like to create new markets for the natural gas that is inundating the US, due in part to dramatically increased production in shale gas plays. Speaking to an audience of most investment analysts in Washington, DC on Oct. 13, Stice said he would like to see developers build liquefaction capabilities into their LNG import terminals along the Texas Gulf Coast.

      “Every operator on the Gulf Coast has a liquefaction plan,” he said. “In the near term, if you get the right political wave, you can do it really quickly.” Stice said Chesapeake prefers not to invest directly in export-oriented liquefaction terminals, but would be willing to support such efforts by signing long-term gas supply contracts, probably tied at first to US Henry Hub index prices and then ultimately to LNG pricing within the Atlantic Basin.

      Stice indicated that Chesapeake is “in very serious discussions” with regulators and has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with terminal developer and operator Cheniere Energy of Houston. Cheniere, which has proposed building liquefaction facilities at its import terminal in Sabine Pass, La., previously said that Chesapeake executives said they were willing to send as much as 500,000 Mcf/d of gas to the proposed facility.

      Cheniere hopes to get regulatory approval by December of next year and hopes to begin constructing the facility by January 2012, with exports to begin in January 2015.

      • Tom Shepstone says:

        Let’s hope so!

        • FS Blank says:

          Now your talkin’ like the gas company employee that you are!

          • Nicole Jacobs says:

            We have an abundance of gas in the United States. So much so that prices are at historic lows. Exporting of any other product is seen as a good thing for our country’s economy and quite honestly as more shale plays open across the country, natural gas will be too. At this time Cheniere has the ONLY permitted (not yet built) export facility in the country and when that comes online it will be beneficial to the U.S. economy and the landowners here.

          • FS Blank says:

            How much gas do we have in this country?

          • Tom Shepstone says:

            I’m not an employee, by the way, and my opinions were the same before (expressed in many publications) as after I became involved with EID. I am landowner and speak from that perspective as well.

  2. Vic Furman says:

    Bring Back America’s wealth… Sell Natural Gas over seas and charge them a lot!!!!

    Or lets just continue to grow the American deficit by buying and recieving the opil and gas from other countries. While were at it lets send our sons and daughters to die for foriegn fuel

  3. Tony says:

    Beggars belief that people want to stop the very natural gas development that has driven gas prices through the floor, but on the other hand claim that allowing LNG export will drive up energy prices. Should Saudi Arabia stop exporting all its oil and just keep it for itself>

    LNG will be good for all! It will create jobs and additional markets for the gas, allowing producers to recoup more from their considerable investment to recover the gas in the first place. It will NOT drive domestic prices up to global LNG parity. Instead, an oversupply of LNG will drive those global prices downward towards North American parity. Just a few years ago we were paying over $10 per thousand cubic feet of gas. Today it is under $3. Oversupply. And more in the pipeline

    There is no way that enough LNG capacity can be built to ship (even over decades) to export all the expected North American production. The amount of gas coming in is simply put, mind-blowingly massive.

    It will always remain cheaper to simply put it into the existing pipeline network and send it somewhere within the continent than it will be to refrigerate it, liquefy it, pump it into extremely expensive tankers which then have to sail elsewhere.

    Think of gas a bit like like bananas….How much does a banana cost in Costa Rica? How much does a banana cost in Nome, Alaska? Does the fact that bananas are shipped to Alaska drive up the cost of bananas in Costa Rica? Why is the price of bananas in Alaska so high? Maybe cost shipping, refrigeration distribution etc. play a part? Why is it so cheap in Costa Rica?

    So this combined don’t drill-don’t export argument is well….bananas!

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