Ahead of a midnight deadline Friday to comment on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) draft water quality amendments, those for and against the proposed changes attempted to make their voices heard by delivering thousands of responses to the commissioners.

As of Thursday morning the commission had received more than 7,600 comments, which by itself was a larger number of responses than to any draft rules to date, a spokesman told NGI’s Shale Daily. However, seven boxes of comments were delivered to the DRBC late Thursday, apparently from 18 environmental groups, which were said to contain about 36,000 responses. And the DRBC was expecting more responses through the end of Friday, the spokesman said.

To handle the expected deluge, the DRBC did not allow comments via e-mail, FAX or telephone.

Environmental advocates have urged the commissioners to complete a cumulative environmental impact study on the basin before proceeding with amendments to the water rules. In the past few weeks several groups launched an information campaign and volunteer effort to solicit criticism of the proposed rules.

“The level of organization response, community response, public input, comments and letters vastly outnumbers anything [the commissioners] have experienced or had to deal with, and that’s appropriate,” said Maya van Rossum, a spokesperson for Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. The group submitted a 174-page letter, as well as eight reports commissioned on storm water, water contamination, seismic issues and water use.

Gas drilling in the basin “is one of the biggest threats facing the Delaware River certainly in our lifetime, and well into the future,” said van Rossum.

The industry-led Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) last Tuesday submitted a 13-page letter and a 12-page technical analysis. Among other things the MSC said the proposed rules exceed the DRBC’s legal authority and some duplicate state jurisdiction (see Shale Daily, April 14).

The comments will be organized and the commission then will prepare a response, the DRBC spokesman said. All of them “will be read and given consideration,” and because they are public record, they eventually will be available for inspection. However, it’s going to take some time, he added.

The DRBC is unlikely to adopt final rules, which may include modifications, before the regular meeting in September, he said.