For the second time in less than a month the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has delayed release of proposed regulations that may dictate how portions of the Marcellus Shale are developed. The proposed rules now aren't expected until November or December.
"The draft natural gas regulations are not yet ready for public distribution," according to the DRBC. "The commissioners are working with staff to continue refining the draft regulations to ensure protection of basin waters while minimizing regulatory duplication."
When they are issued, the draft regulations will be accompanied by a public rulemaking process that will include two public hearings and a written comment period, DRBC said.
Commission staff couldn't make a self-imposed end-of-summer deadline to issue the draft rules for public comment and last month said it was delaying publication until the middle of October (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24a). At that time DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier indicated that the draft regulations were completed, for the most part, and had been distributed to commission members, who include the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.
Sources close to the action have indicated that politics currently is behind the delay with several states, notably New York and New Jersey, seeking stricter rules, delays or a ban on drilling.
Commission staff in May was directed to draft regulations for gas well pad projects in shale formations within the basin (see Daily GPI, May 12). A month later the DRBC voted to temporarily ban new permits for exploratory gas drilling in the watershed (see Daily GPI, June 16).
The Obama administration recently rejected a New York congressman's bid to require that the DRBC complete an impact study of gas drilling activities in the Delaware basin prior to issuing final regulations or permitting individual drilling projects in the region (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24b). A House Appropriations subcommittee has approved $1 million for a U.S. Geological Survey-DRBC cumulative impact study on water withdrawals for gas drilling within the basin.
The DRBC draft regulations should not be issued until after the impact study has been completed, according to Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
"This federal-funded comprehensive study must be done first and then the information learned be used to inform the regulations that the DRBC will adopt regarding gas development in the Delaware River watershed," she said.
The Delaware basin underlies about 36% of the prolific Marcellus Shale formation.