The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has written a draft of new legislation to help regulate natural gas extraction that could occur within that agency’s boundary, which includes part of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. If finalized, the new legislation will be known as Article 7, the full draft for which is available here.
What is the DRBC?
“The DRBC is a federal-interstate compact government agency that was formed by concurrent legislation enacted in 1961 by the United States and the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware). Its five members include the basin state governors and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative. The commission has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity-related issues throughout the basin.”
In essence, Article 7 will require all natural gas development projects within the basin to obtain approval from that entity, in addition to the regular process that is required by the home state. This will include not only drilling for gas, but also exploratory wells, any well-site activities, and associated water withdrawals and wastewater deposits as well. The Commission already has the authority to protect the waters in the basin from pollution, but since the issues of natural gas and clean and healthy rivers are as complicated as they are fundamental, the new regulations were deemed appropriate.
Since this basin includes some of the far eastern edge of the productive Marcellus Shale gas play in Pennsylvania and New York, the new regulations could have an immediate impact—both on the natural gas industry and the Delaware Basin itself.
Written comments on the proposed Article will be accepted through 5 p.m. March 16, 2011. Three public hearings will be scheduled, and details on those will be posted on the DRBC website as soon as the dates are finalized.