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Pennsylvania's Rendell Supports Delaware Basin Moratorium

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell recently said in Philadelphia he believes hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be done safely, but said he supports the de facto moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River Basin and would back a genuine one.

Meanwhile, officials with the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the interstate compact that manages the basin's waterways, said there has been no official progress on an agreement to revise the basin's water quality standards, but negotiations are being held between its four member states. Such an agreement could open the basin to expanded natural gas drilling.

Rendell, one of the keynote speakers earlier this month at the Clean Energy Conference sponsored by Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), said he "would support putting a moratorium on the Delaware Basin right now. But we've got to look at it and continue to go forward," the former Democratic governor said, according to a report by StateImpact Pennsylvania. "We can't just say stop, because stop would mean more petroleum, more coal-fired power plants."

It was almost one year ago to the date that Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor who served two terms as Pennsylvania governor, blasted the natural gas industry for its reluctance to pay a state severance tax and other issues (see NGI, Sept. 12, 2011). But Rendell made it clear that he was still a strong supporter of natural gas development in the state. He also warned environmentalists against minimizing the economic benefits from fracking, for fear of losing support among citizens who support Marcellus Shale development.

"There are people in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania who were consigned to the fact that they would die poor and have nothing to pass on to their children," Rendell said. "When the environmental community takes positions that to the average person seem to be anti-economic growth, we lose them."

DRBC spokeswoman Katherine O'Hara told NGI that there was no discussion to revise the basin's water quality standards at its last meeting on Sept. 12, the commission's fourth meeting in 2012. The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5.

"Our commissioners did not make any statements [about the proposed standards] during their last meeting," O'Hara said. But she added that Kelly Jean Heffner, Pennsylvania's second alternate to the DRBC and its current chairman, told the media that there were ongoing technical discussions between staff members for the four states in the compact -- Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The DRBC was set to vote on a proposal to revise its water quality regulations last November, but the meeting was canceled and the proposal postponed indefinitely after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said he opposed it (see NGI, Nov. 21, 2011). A de facto moratorium on fracking in the basin remains in effect.

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