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Delaware Governor's Position Could Decide DRBC Vote

Environmentalists say Delaware Gov. Jack Markell will be in a key position to oppose hydraulic fracturing (fracking) when the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) meets on Monday, but they admit they are unsure of where he stands on Marcellus Shale development within the basin.

At issue are regulations that, if approved, would add to the DRBC's existing water quality regulations and allow construction and operation of natural gas wells within the basin, especially in areas of Pennsylvania and New York that lie within the Marcellus Shale.

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.

"Gov. Markell will really play a pivotal role in this," Tracy Carluccio, spokeswoman for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday. "Delaware has traditionally been very conservative and very careful about protecting water quality because it's at the bottom of the watershed and bears the brunt of anything the other states do upstream."

But Carluccio conceded that it was unclear how Markell would vote on the regulations, the final version of which were issued on Nov. 1, nearly one year after they were first proposed (see Shale Daily, Nov. 9; Dec. 10, 2010).

"We don't know what's going to happen on Monday," Carluccio said. "We really don't know how Gov. Markell is considering this now. We're concerned because it looks as if the DRBC is just going to steamroll ahead with this because they issued these rules and planned this meeting. It looks like the handwriting is on the wall, but we are hoping that is not the case. I think it's really up in the air at this point over how Gov. Markell is going to vote."

Markell spokesman Brian Selander told NGI's Shale Daily that the fracking debate has been heating up before Monday's vote. "Throughout the fall, our office has received a number of letters, calls, emails and Facebook posts making the case for and against the vote," Selander said Tuesday. "Most of those came from people outside the state from people opposed to fracking. He was invited to attend a screening of Gasland on Monday at the University of Delaware, but the invitation was not considered because he was not in the area. Our office continues to review the documents and the issue in advance of the vote."

If adopted, the rulemaking would "constitute a joint exercise of the sovereign authority of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the federal government" under the Delaware River Basin Compact and would amend the DRBC's comprehensive plan for the basin.

Monday's meeting will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, NJ. The DRBC said the meeting will be open to the public, but will not include a hearing to accept comments from the public prior to the anticipated vote.

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