Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling on hold

    Delaware River Basin Commission won’t allow drilling until it readies its regulations governing the process. Meanwhile, an industry group says the DRBC should leave water quality to the states DEP.

    It looks like natural gas drillers hoping to tap the Marcellus Shale formation will have to wait a while longer before they can get a permit to drill in the Delaware River Basin.

    The interstate agency that regulates water quality in the region has delayed issuing its proposed drilling regulations. In the meantime, the Delaware River Basin Commission’s halt on drilling continues.

    When the Kennedy Administration created the commission back in 1961, the Environmental Protection Agency did not exist and the Delaware River was filthy.

    The DRBC is proud to say that, today, the water quality above Trenton exceeds federal standards. So the cmmission says it needs more time to come up with new regulations that will maintain the river’s current water quality during a boom in natural gas drilling.

    But the drillers say the delay continues to create uncertainty for the natural gas industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Katherine Klaber is president of the industry group — The Marcellus Shale Coalition. She says the DRBC should follow the lead of the less stringent Susquehanna River Basin Commission, leaving water quality issues to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    She urges the DRBC to “regulate water quantity issues, that is the withdrawal of water, but delegate water quality issues to the DEP which has extensive regulations in place, experience under their belt and inspectors in the field to enforce those regulations.”

    The SRBC also could regulate water quality issues, but chooses not to. The executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission says it will continue overseeing the water quality of the Delaware River and its tributaries in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their proposed regulations may not be released for another month or two.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.