In May of 2016 the Wayne Land and Mineral Group (WLMG) filed suit in federal court challenging the authority of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to regulate natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin (DRB). DCS responded with an Amicus brief, presenting to the Court the “devastating impacts that would follow in the Basin if this Court determines that the Commission does not have the authority to regulate – including the authority to ban — fracking in the Basin.”
On March 23, 2017, The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed the lawsuit brought by WLMG. The court determined that gas wells, and related facilities and activities, constitute “projects” and that proposed projects must be submitted to the DRBC to determine if they will have a “substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin”. The conclusion of the court is as follows:
In sum, the Plaintiff asks this Court to declare that the DRBC “does not have jurisdiction over, or the authority to review and approve, or to require WLMG to seek prior approval from the Commission for, or to otherwise preclude the development of, WLMG’s proposed well pad, appurtenant facilities or the related activities to be carried out on the Property.” (Doc. 1, at 18). On the face of Plaintiffs Complaint, however, it is apparent that its proposed activities within the Delaware River Basin constitute a “project” within the meaning of that term as defined in Sections 1.2(g) and 1.2(i) of the Compact. Accordingly, the Compact requires Plaintiff to submit an application to the Commission for a determination as to whether its proposed “project” has a “substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin” and, if so, whether the Commission shall approve or disapprove such project based on its determination that the project would or would not substantially impair or conflict with the Commission’s comprehensive plan.