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DRBC Draft Exceeds Legal Authority, Says Marcellus Shale Coalition

With Friday's deadline approaching to comment on the Delaware River Basin Commission's (DRBC) draft water quality amendments, the industry-led Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) on Tuesday outlined its concerns and said the proposed rules exceed the multi-state commission's legal authority and duplicate state jurisdiction.

The DRBC regulates the 13,539-square-mile basin, which extends into Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The states' governors serve as commissioners, along with the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic division.

Last year the commission voted to impose a moratorium on new well pad permits in the basin, which overlies the Marcellus Shale formation, and in December proposed amendments to regulate wastewater, water sources for natural gas development and well pad siting (see Shale Daily, March 4; Dec. 10, 2010). If the rules are adopted as proposed, drilling would be allowed to continue, albeit under more oversight.

Comments are being taken on the draft proposal through midnight Friday.

"The MSC supports DRBC in its stated mission of ensuring that proper environmental controls are provided to safeguard the Delaware River Basin, and of establishing a regulatory scheme within the scope of DRBC authority that complements state and federal requirements," MSC President Kathryn Klaber wrote in a letter to the DRBC. "However, the MSC has significant concern regarding the scope of the draft regulations, which we believe exceed DRBC's legal authority and duplicate member state jurisdiction and existing DRBC programs in several critical respects."

According to MSC's comments, the draft rules of "paramount" concern include:

In addition to submitting formal comments, the MSC and American Petroleum Institute requested an independent analysis of the draft rules by ALL Consulting, which specializes in water management, planning and energy development, Klaber said. The analysis was included in MSC's comments.

"The consumptive water use requirements for natural gas development at full buildout, as compared to other water uses in the basin, are relatively minor," the ALL analysis stated. "The nuclear power industry uses more than 10 times the amount of water that would be used for natural gas development; golf course maintenance uses more than 20 times the amount; and thermoelectric power generation and agriculture use more than 45 times the amount."

Among other things the analysis found that under the draft rules, applying for and obtaining approval to develop gas wells in the basin "is likely to take as long as 24 months."

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