Marcellus Shale

Put the DRBC Time Machine into Forward

Michele Stahl
Financial Advisor and Member, Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance

Do you remember the 1960 movie, based on the novel by H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”?  I was so fascinated by it when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted to go back in time and see what the world was like and, of course, going forward into the future would be so adventurous.  Today, however, I am less than fascinated with the concept because it seems to reflect the reality that is life within the region of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).  Life goes by at a dizzying speed, first surging forward, then going backwards and then forward again, while the DRBC and those it regulates are forever trapped in the same place and time.

The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

The time machine in the movie appears to blur and disappear, but lo and behold it transmits H.G. Wells into the future.  As Mr. Wells travels through time, he discovers both good and bad.  Amazingly, when he sets the machine back to present day the time machine ends up right back in the same spot within his home.  As you watch the movie you see the surroundings change as time changes many things; from the changes in the seasons, to the changes in life. People get old and die, babies are born, people become ill, some recover and some don’t, buildings go up and buildings come down.

I often think of the Delaware River Basin Commission as that stationary time machine. The world around it changes but it stays in the same place, unable to move and only able to see what’s happening around it.  It also seems limited to going backwards and incapable of traveling into the future. It has taken four years to develop regulations that are seemingly going nowhere.  The staff, led by Carol Collier, its Executive Director, clearly was the cause of the inexcusable delay but who enabled her?  Obviously, it was the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and the Army Corps of Engineers.   Therefore, the blame ultimately is on them because they let it go on too long and now are unwilling to even vote.

The governors are elected by the people but assign delegates to sit in their chairs.  The delegates, the folks who actually vote, change frequently.  They are like freshman starting high school and depend on the staff.  The unelected staff, therefore, wields most of the power but not the ultimate power, which lies with the governors.  The staff can determine where the time machine goes but chose going backwards for far too long. They had no incentive to move forward.  No one told them their jobs were on the line if they didn’t move forward until very late in the game and now the governors themselves seem paralyzed and unable to push the bottom to move the time machine forward.

Meanwhile, the staff has suddenly seen their future and it isn’t so bright.  They are wondering how things could have ended up this way and why there is no revenue coming in from either the states or project fees.  It is, perhaps the worst example of management ever.  They dawdled and delayed until they were in a position where  no one is happy with them.  Landowners are angry, environmentalists are angry and the governors are angry.  Everyone is angry at the misuse of the time machine and there is no paycheck.  Maybe now they will know how the rest of us feel not getting our paychecks.

Those of us affected by their delays and inactions are getting older.  Time marches on.  Five years ago, I started educating myself on the Marcellus Shale as well as the DRBC.  I had no idea who the DRBC was or what they did.  Heck, I don’t think they know who they are or what they do.  We have been told many times, by the DRBC staff, that the regulations are almost complete.  Years later we have only draft regulations and now the delegates won’t vote on them. Why waste all that time and money, during a global financial crisis, if you aren’t going to vote?  Why?

Why is it that no one holds the DRBC accountable for its irresponsible time machine games?  All of us are held accountable to deadlines, especially when it comes to paying our taxes.  We pay taxes to the state and our government so that each entity can provide services to us.  Wait a minute….I can see that time machine again…we pay taxes….life changes all around us and yet still no vote!  Something is not right and the buck stops on the governors’ desks!  Let’s start acting responsibly, take that vote, fire the staff that produced this debacle and get on with issuing permits!  Put that time machine into forward if you insist on using it.

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