Wrangling Among States Delays Delaware Gas Drilling Vote

Internal disagreements over how strictly gas drilling should be regulated have caused an inter-governmental agency to indefinitely postpone a vote on proposed rules for natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed.

The Delaware River Basin Commission — made up of governors of four states and a colonel in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — had planned to finalize new rules for gas drilling on next Monday, meaning permits to drill could have been issued as soon as early 2012.


But the DRBC said in a statement that vote on new rules is postponed indefinitely "allow additional time for review by the five commission members."

In a written statement, Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, a vocal supporter of gas drilling, expressed frustration.

“Pennsylvania’s citizens have been extraordinarily patient," he wrote. "We have worked with our commission partners in good faith, and it is disappointing to not have these efforts reciprocated.”

Three 'Yes' votes are required to implement the new regulations.

New York likely would have voted the rules down, according to a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Delaware's governor announced Thursday he would have vote against the draft regulations.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers both declined to comment.

In the months leading up to the vote, anti-drilling activists waged an email and letter-writing campaign aimed at persuading officials to strengthen the proposed regulations.

The DRBC's draft rules have been challenged separately in court by the New York Attorney General.

Created in 1961, the Delaware River Basin Commission has oversight of 13,500 square miles drained by the Delaware and its tributaries. About 15 million people depend on the river system for drinking water.