The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution last Thursday directing the city to join a lawsuit against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) over Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin.

Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who authored the resolution, told NGI’s Shale Daily that the move followed extensive hearings and the issuance of a report over the perceived effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on the city.

“The stakes are too high as the Delaware River Basin supplies [more than] 17 million people with drinking water, or 10% of the U.S. population,” Jones said Monday. “Since the DRBC has ignored our previous calls for a more deliberate and cautious approach and is now poised to adopt regulations, it leaves the city with minimal options besides supporting the lawsuits brought by the State of New York and other parties requesting [that] no drilling take place until a full environmental analysis impact study is performed.”

Jones said drilling in the basin could have a negative impact on Philadelphia’s water supply and called drilling operations premature. He said the city viewed support of the DRBC lawsuit as a way to prevent a catastrophe, and equated such an event to the blowout of the Macondo well and subsequent oil spill (see Daily GPI, April 22, 2010).

“[We have] already gone on record stating the ‘horse of science should go before the cart of policy,'” Jones said. “By joining our voices together, we are a choir singing the significance of safety.”

Last May Schneiderman sued 10 federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to require the DRBC to conduct an environmental review before proposing regulations that, if enacted, would allow water from the basin to be used for shale gas development (see Shale Daily, Dec. 10, 2010). Representatives of the Army Corps and the governors of the four states served by the basin — New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania — are members of the DRBC.

Federal officials wanted the case dismissed, but a district court judge instead awarded them the right to intervene in the lawsuit over constitutional concerns (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12; Aug. 4). The judge also gave industry groups the right to file briefs in the case.