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Lawmaker Seeks Halt to Delaware River Basin Plan to Curb NatGas Development

A Republican state lawmaker from Northeast Pennsylvania plans to soon introduce a resolution urging the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) not to move forward with plans to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the 13,539-square mile watershed.

State Rep. Jonathan Fritz, who serves parts of Susquehanna and Wayne counties, is circulating a memo seeking legislative co-sponsors. A ban, he wrote in the memo, would “be detrimental for all Pennsylvanians by impacting jobs and depriving landowners’ economic opportunities in the northeastern part of the state.”

The DRBC voted 3-1 earlier this month to adopt a resolution calling for a rulemaking that could ultimately ban fracking in the four-state basin. The resolution started the process of promulgating regulations that would prohibit any water project in the Delaware River Basin proposed for producing oil and natural gas resources by fracking.

Formed in 1961, the DRBC oversees and manages water resources and is led by governors of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the federal government. With the exception of New Jersey, whose representative abstained, the three other governors voted for the resolution, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers voted no.

“While I understand those individuals were doing their duty as part of the commission by taking part in a vote put in front of them, I find it unfortunate they would vote to impact our economy and constituency in a negative fashion,” Fritz said of the governors that voted for the resolution.

While the Marcellus Shale underlies about 36% of the Delaware River Basin, a ban wouldn’t change much. The DRBC in 2009 said all natural gas drilling in the basin needed to be reviewed, but said it would not approve any development until rules were adopted governing the industry. The commission postponed the gas development review in 2010 and has since failed to act on adopting rules, leaving in place a de facto moratorium that has persisted for years.

The industry still railed against the DRBC resolution. Pennsylvania GOP state Senate leaders also decried the DRBC’s vote, calling it “arbitrary, short-sighted and a blow to economic development, job creation and landowners’ rights.”

Fritz said his resolution would implore the DRBC to immediately “suspend its consideration” of a ban, hinting that Delaware should have abstained as New Jersey did because there are no viable shale gas deposits there.

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