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Philadelphia Mayor Declines To Have City Join DRBC Lawsuit

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has declined to have the city join a lawsuit against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) over Marcellus Shale development, despite a resolution from the City Council supporting such a move.

Mark McDonald, the mayor's press secretary, told NGI's Shale Daily that although the city is concerned about the potential impact that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) could have on municipal water supplies, it was not necessary for the city to intervene in the legal battle.

"The general position we've taken is that with proper regulatory oversight, drilling could be undertaken in a safe environmental fashion," McDonald said Tuesday. "But until there is a study that evaluates the long-term cumulative implications of extraction on the water supply, it's not really possible to fully evaluate the ramifications of the drilling that would occur."

On Oct. 13 the city council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the city and the council to support, as a Friend of the Court, a lawsuit brought against the DRBC by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for not conducting a full environmental review of proposed regulations for shale development in the basin (see Shale Daily, Oct. 20; June 1).

"They did their resolution, which is a nonbinding sense of counsel statement that they want full steam ahead in support of the lawsuit," McDonald said. "We're just not prepared to do that. What we're espousing comports very well with what that suit is attempting to achieve. We want a very cautious and careful development of that industry.

"We're not just out saying it can't happen or it shouldn't happen. We're saying that real protections need to be put in place and they need to be based on science and research with strong industry participation."

McDonald said the city -- through its lead agency on the issue, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) -- came to the conclusion that it wasn't necessary for the city to join Schneiderman's lawsuit. But he added that city officials supported several recommendations:

"It's a middle ground," McDonald said. "It's not taking the position that some would wish, which is just an out-in-out ban on drilling. But it's tempered by a desire to have some very careful study done. There's a heightened interest and concern here about our upstream partners and what they're doing or not doing."

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