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June 29, 2013

Pennsylvania Governor Frustrated and Disappointed with DRBC, Urges Action

In a letter dated June 27, 2013 to the Executive Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (“DRBC”), Pennsylvania Governor and DRBC Commissioner Tom Corbett expressed his “profound sense of frustration and disappointment” due to the DRBC’s more than three year moratorium on natural gas development.  Corbett “urge[d] the DRBC to move forward without further delay and finalize the process it initiated more than three years ago.” Corbett explained how the ongoing failure of the DRBC to do so has negatively those areas of Pennsylvania that lie within the basin: “The citizens of Pennsylvania residing within the basin have been denied the enjoyment of their property rights due to the inaction of the DRBC.  Operators interested in developing natural gas have closed offices and laid-off employees; lease payments have been withheld; force majeure clauses in contracts have been exercised, and communities have watched their neighbors outside the basin benefit tremendously.” Corbett’s summary could just as easily been translated to New York’s Southern Tier.  And, as others have previously argued, Corbett acknowledged that the DRBC’s inaction “may very well constitute a 'taking' under the U.S. Constitution, subjecting its members, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to financial and other legal ramifications.” Corbett’s message was strong.  Pennslyvania wants drilling, has actively worked to promulgate comprehensive regulations to ensure appropriate environmental safeguards and, therefore, should not have areas of the state held hostage by the DRBC, or more to the point, held hostage by other member states that may not want drilling.  As Corbett stated, even if the DRBC lifts its moratorium on natural gas development, member states ultimately retain the authority regarding whether to allow drilling within their borders.  Let's hope the DRBC gets the message.

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