Citizen group challenges interstate regulatory commission

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February 29, 2012

By Lauren Rodgers

A citizen group submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to force the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) to show "what it has been doing to protect regional waters and the general public from the hydrofracking water demands and pollution."[1]

The commission, created by the Susquehanna River Basin Compact in 1970, manages efforts to conserve, develop and administer the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin. The interstate compact that created the commission is an agreement among the states of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania and provides each of the compact's member states equal representation on the commission. The SRBC has identified six "priority management" areas of focus: Water supply; Water quality; Flooding; Ecosystems; Chesapeake Bay; and Coordination, cooperation and public information.[2]

The Susquehanna River Basin is said to contain a large amount of Marcellus Shale. The citizen group Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is concerned the interstate commission charged with its protection isn't doing enough.[3]

The Director of the group filing the records request, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS), expressed concern that the commission is "not protecting our vital watersheds from the contamination risks of gas development using hydraulic-fracturing of horizontal wells."[1] In a letter addressed to the Executive Director of the SRBC, the attorney for the citizens group asks for any documents relating to "any effects of natural gas drilling operations in the Susquehanna River basin on the quality of the waters of the basin" and any documents that indicate the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has:

  • complied with the requirements of the Compact and/or the rules and regulations of the commission,
  • prohibited and controlled pollution of the waters of the basin according to the requirements of the Compact,
  • cooperated faithfully in the control of future pollution and in abatement of existing pollution from waters of the basin, and
  • has considered the compatibility of such projects with the public values identified in Section 9.1 of the Compact[4]

The SRBC has not answered the group's request. On the commission's website, its role in the regulation of natural gas development is described as ""limited" but very important," though "all natural gas companies [must] seek approval from the commission before withdrawing or using any amount of water for natural gas development in certain tight shale formations"(Original emphasis).[5]

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