A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by two Pennsylvania Senate Republicans against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). 

DRBC

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said state Sens. Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker lack standing to challenge the ban on unconventional oil and gas development in the 13,539-square mile watershed. 

The senators, along with two townships and two counties in the state, claimed the DRBC exceeded its authority by imposing a moratorium on fracking in the basin. They alleged that the commision usurped legislative authority. However, Judge Paul S. Diamond said the matter is a partisan one that should be resolved through the broader political process. 

“Unfortunately for plaintiffs, the ‘powers’ the moratorium ostensibly impairs are all vested in either the general assembly or in the commonwealth, not in individual legislators or their party,” Diamond wrote in dismissing the case on Friday. 

The court also found that plaintiffs Carbon and Wayne counties, along with Damascus and Dyberry townships, lacked standing. But Diamond said they could refile the suit by July 1 to better demonstrate how the moratorium has harmed them. 

Another federal lawsuit against the ban filed by Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC, which owns properties in the basin where it wants to develop oil and gas assets, is still pending. 

The DRBC decided in 2009 that all gas drilling in the basin needed to be reviewed, saying it would not approve any development until it adopted new rules governing the industry. The next year it decided to postpone the review of natural gas development and left in place a de facto moratorium for years. 

In February, the commission voted to permanently ban fracking in the basin, which overlaps parts of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York. 

The DRBC was established in 1961 as a hybrid interstate and federal regulatory body to oversee the waters of the Delaware River Basin.