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DRBC "Swamped" by Over 9,000 Comments (Including Comments from Newtown Township) on Proposed Fracking Ban

DRBC "Swamped" by Over 9,000 Comments (Including Comments from Newtown Township) on Proposed Fracking Ban | Newtown News of Interest |

With public comment closed on a controversial fracking ban proposal for the Delaware River basin, regulators must now tackle an arduous task: combing through nearly 9,000 submissions received over the past four months.


Last fall, when the commission put forth updated proposals that would ban fracking in the basin — a measure long sought by environmentalists — but allow for the disposal of treated wastewater and extraction of river water for fracking operations outside the basin.


The proposed regulations are among the most controversial in years put forth by the DRBC, an interstate regulatory group composed of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and the federal government. Introduced last fall, the proposal calls for the banning of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the basin. The process involves injecting highly pressurized fluids underground to crack up rocks and release natural gas deposits.


Among the proponents of a ban are the Newtown Township supervisors, who recently voted 4-1 to submit a comment calling for a ban of all fracking-related activities. But the town is also considering preemptive action, with supervisors saying they may dust off a proposal to amend the township’s joint municipal zoning ordinance, which it shares with Upper Makefield and Wrightstown.

The amendment would establish “oil and gas drilling, processing and transport” as a new land use, requiring conditional approval for fracking. It would also only allow drilling in Wrightstown’s rural industrial and quarry/agriculture districts, not on any property subject to a conservation easement or open space restrictions.

Newtown Township Supervisor John Mack said board members recently had discussed resuming work on that amendment [read “Newtown Supervisors Discuss Proposed Ordinance to Allow Fracking”], though it has not yet been placed on any planning commission meeting agenda.

The proposed amendment came under review at a January 2017 community meeting, where attorney Jordan Yeager, of Doylestown Township’s Curtin & Heefner law fim, discussed its pros and cons as a way to regulate gas and oil drilling at the municipal level.

Yeager noted in a letter to the Riverkeepers that officials in the jointure municipalities should not approve the amendment without first revising it, saying a lack of scientific due diligence could render the municipalities vulnerable to legal challenges under the state’s environmental laws.

Amendments to the joint zoning ordinance cannot go into effect until all three municipalities approve them.

Wrightstown supervisors have considered the fracking jointure amendment on and off for the past two years, said Chester Pogonowski, the board’s chairman. Right now, he said, there is no consensus and there is no scheduled discussion.

The amendment has not yet been in front of Upper Makefield’s board of supervisors, said Chairman Tom Cino. Some environmental groups have been critical of the proposal, saying it could signal to drillers that the township is open for business.

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Newtown News of Interest
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