Would The Present-Day DRBC Have Let Washington Cross the Delaware?

NJ-based Delaware River Basin Commission places unnecessary moratorium on Marcellus production, denying economic benefits, jobs to Pennsylvanians

It’s hard to imagine President Kennedy had the denial of jobs and revenue for residents of Pennsylvania in mind when he signed a bill in 1961 creating the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). But nearly a half-century later, the DRBC of today bears little resemblance to the compact established almost five decades ago — one that was put in place to promote economic growth by providing a mechanism for equitable distribution of the Delaware’s waters.

Today, unlike similarly structured, intergovernmental bodies – such as the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) – the DRBC is working aggressively to shut down any and all natural gas exploration that may take place, now or in the future, in the eastern portion of the Marcellus Shale.

This week, following the decision last month to ban new shale permits in the area, the West Trenton, N.J.-based organization took additional steps to bring responsible Marcellus Shale natural gas production to a standstill by putting forth a de facto moratorium. How’d it do that? Easy: DRBC simply gave itself the authority to unilaterally freeze exploratory Marcellus production wells in the basin altogether.

Well aware of exactly what’s at stake, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) wasn’t bashful in telling the Philadelphia Inquirer what it thought of the DRBC decision:

Kathryn Klaber, executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition…said extending the temporary ban on new permits to include exploratory wells only added “layers of unnecessary red tape” without any environmental benefit.

The DRBC’s decision to deny Americans the benefits of clean-burning, job-creating natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is misguided and unfortunate,” she said. New technologies, she added, are reducing the overall water usage and land disturbance.

“At the same time, this production is creating tens of thousands of jobs and delivering affordable, clean-burning energy to struggling families and small businesses. Our hope is that the DRBC will recognize this fact and act accordingly, putting commonsense solutions and policies ahead of agendas,” she said.

Safely producing clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania remains a powerful job creation engine. In fact, according to a recently updated Penn State University economic impact study, this tightly regulated production is projected to create nearly 212,000 jobs over the next decade.

Many in Pennsylvania understand how important this opportunity is for the Commonwealth, especially in regions of the state facing high unemployment and ongoing economic struggles. And like the MSC, supporters of environmentally safe natural gas production understand how critical it is to get this right, balancing commonsense environmental safeguards with the economic opportunities before us.

Here’s what one northeastern Pennsylvania natural gas advocate told the Associated Press about safely developing these abundant, domestic and clean-burning resources near the Delaware River basin:

Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania’s unspoiled northeastern tip, hoping to tap vast stores of gas in a sprawling rock formation — the Marcellus Shale — that some experts believe could become the nation’s most productive gas field.

Plenty of folks like Matoushek are eager for the gas, and the royalty checks, to start flowing — including farmers who see Marcellus money as a way to keep their struggling operations afloat.

“It’s a depressed area,” Matoushek said. “This is going to mean new jobs, real jobs, not government jobs.”

Adding new and unnecessary layers of burdensome regulations and red tape – aimed at halting job-creating Marcellus Shale natural gas production – will not help deliver more affordable supplies of homegrown energy. The DRBC’s shale gas moratorium will not help drive down our dependence on unstable regions of the world to keep our economy fueled, nor will it help create jobs at a time when they’re most needed. Quite the opposite, in fact.