No new regulations yet: DRBC cancels key gas drilling meeting

The Delaware River Basin Commission, a multi-state and federal agency that governs water use in the Delaware River Basin, has abruptly cancelled a meeting at which commissioners were expected to vote on new gas drilling regulations.

A notice posted on the DRBC website today is short on details:

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today announced that the special meeting scheduled for Nov. 21 to consider draft natural gas development regulations has been postponed to allow additional time for review by the five commission members.

No additional information is available at this time.

But the move comes as no surprise to analysts who've been watching the DRBC closely. Public opposition to the new regulations by two of DRBC's member states had reporters and gas drilling stakeholders wondering if the agency would put off the vote.

Yesterday, Delaware governor Jack Mackrell announced that his state would be voting "no" on the new regulations, and New York State was expected to follow suit.

New York State DEC head Joe Martens, whose agency is still working on the latest draft of a massive set of gas drilling regulations, told reporters on November 9 that he didn't want two different sets of rules governing gas drilling in New York State:

“We don’t want the regulated community to have two different sets of regulations, which are probably inconsistent in places,” he added. “We just think it would be very confusing for the regulated entity to have to go to two separate entities to get permits.”

Pennsylvania was expected to come out solidly in favor of the regulations. But Susan Phillips, a reporter for StateImpact PA, wrote last night that Delaware and New York's opposition to the regulations put the other two DRBC members in a tough spot:

That leaves New Jer­sey, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers in a dif­fi­cult posi­tion as the decid­ing votes. It’s unclear how either will come down on the issue. But with­out a solid major­ity the Com­mis­sion may not want to put the rules up for a vote on Mon­day.

StateImpact PA also has an annotated guide to the DRBC's proposed new regulations, now in limbo after the meeting's cancellation.

Riverkeeper, an environmental organization that has spearheaded a lawsuit against the DRBC in an effort to get the agency to do an environmental study before approving the new regulations, claimed victory on their website today:

Thanks to all of your great efforts, the state of Delaware announced yesterday that it will vote “no” to DRBC’s proposed gas drilling regulations, which would allow fracking to go forward in the Delaware River Basin. As a result of Delaware’s commitment, DRBC has postponed the vote and set no new vote date!