On May 5 the Delaware River Basin Commission directed commission staff to draft regulations for natural gas well pad projects in shale formations in the Delaware River Basin. The commissioners will consider specific natural gas well pad applications after the new regulations are in place.
“The drafting process is already underway, so it made logical sense for the development of new regulations to move forward in advance of any individual project decisions,” DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said in describing the action taken yesterday by the commissioners representing Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the federal government. The rulemaking process will include public notice and a full opportunity for public comment before the commissioners adopt the regulations.
The DRBC has already conducted a public hearing and received over 2,000 written comments regarding a proposal previously submitted by Stone Energy Corporation for the Matoushek #1 well located in Clinton Township, Wayne County, Pa. The commissioners’ decision to rule upon this and other pending and future specific natural gas well pad project applications after the new regulations are adopted is consistent with many of the public comments submitted.
Commission review of pending or future proposed water withdrawals to be used to supply water to natural gas extraction projects, including Stone Energy’s proposed water withdrawal from the West Branch Lackawaxen River in Mount Pleasant Township, Wayne County, Pa., will proceed in accordance with existing DRBC regulations.
The written comments that the DRBC received during the comment period that closed on April 12 pertained to both Stone Energy’s proposed water withdrawal project and its proposed natural gas well drilling project. The earliest that the commission could vote on the Stone Energy proposed water withdrawal project would be its next public business meeting scheduled for July 14, 2010.
"We applaud the DRBC for taking this precautionary approach to gas drilling in the Delaware River Watershed. Now rules to protect the Delaware River and its Watershed from degradation and pollution from shale gas development can be put in place prior to the drilling of gas production wells," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. "The Commission should next recognize that it must include all natural gas related projects in its rulemaking, including water withdrawals, and that this moratorium should stop all drilling, closing the current loophole that will allow 'exploratory' or 'non-shale' drilling to surge ahead of DRBC regulation. The DRBC has taken a sensible and laudable step today towards keeping gas drilling from running wild here so that a cumulative study of impacts and rulemaking can happen first. The public fought for this "pause button" and the DRBC listened. We will continue to fight for a full moratorium"