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Wolf Budget Proposes Restoring Most Funding to DRBC

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed restoring most of his state's share of funding to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which was cut by his Republican predecessor in a controversial move last year.

According to the proposed budget, Wolf has called for appropriating $750,000 to the DRBC from the General Fund for 2015-2016. Estimated budgets for the next four years, through 2019-2020, also call for maintaining DRBC funding at $750,000.

Pennsylvania gave the DRBC $934,000 in the 2013-2014 budget, but former Gov. Tom Corbett slashed $500,000 from the regulatory body's funding last year (see Shale Daily, July 21, 2014). Democrats and environmental groups derided the cuts and accused Corbett of retaliating against the DRBC for failing to enact rules governing oil and gas development in the basin.

"We welcomed the news because it means we're heading in the right direction from what we've experienced the previous year," DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert told StateImpact Pennsylvania. "But that's still subject to the legislature."

The DRBC is led by the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic division is also a commission member. According to the compact creating the DRBC, New Jersey and Pennsylvania each are to contribute 25% of the organization's budget, while New York is to contribute 17.5%, Delaware 12.5% and the federal government the remaining 20%. The commission's fiscal year (FY) begins on July 1.

Last June, the DRBC adopted a budget for FY 2014-2015 totaling more than $5.45 million, with signatory members to contribute more than $2.64 million. DRBC said the budget includes the $434,000 from Pennsylvania, plus $693,000 from New Jersey, $447,000 from Delaware, $359,500 from New York and $715,000 from the federal government.

The federal government has only paid its share once, in 2009, since 1996 (see Shale Daily, July 19, 2011).

"We're not doing important planning activities we would like to do," Rupert said. "We need to be looking at our water supply decades into the future. We are responsible for half of the water supply to New York City, It's not a sustainable position that we're in."

By comparison, Pennsylvania has kept -- and has plans to keep, at least through the budget for 2019-2020 -- the same level of funding for four other multi-state regulatory entities. The state gave $573,000 to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission; $227,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Commission; $136,000 to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission; and $46,000 to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin in 2013-2014. Wolf plans to repeat those allocations.

The DRBC was near a vote to revise its water quality regulations in November 2011, but the meeting was canceled and the proposal postponed indefinitely after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said he opposed it (see Shale Daily, Nov. 21, 2011).

Before the November 2011 meeting was canceled, New York officials said they would have joined Delaware in opposing the plan, but Pennsylvania was ready to vote in favor of it. New Jersey was undecided.

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