April 24, 2014

Legal Action

For the past year, DCS has pursued legal challenges to the DRBC and PADEP. In May of 2010, attorney Jeffrey Zimmerman filed an administrative appeal, joined by Delaware Riverkeeper, challenging the DRBC’s failure to regulate or review the impacts of so-called test-wells within the watershed. Several months later, DCS challenged the PADEP permit granted for a number of drilling sites within the watershed. The depositions taken in this case resulted in the April 13, 2011 story written by the Associated Press titled: “P.A. accused of rubber-stamping gas permits.” Through the depositions, it was revealed that PADEP regulators spent as little as 35 minutes reviewing an application to drill for gas and did not take into account potential impacts on legally protected high-quality watersheds.

A former federal judge was scheduled to conduct a hearing on the DRBC test-well appeal. But at its December 8, 2010 meeting, the DRBC announced that the Northern Wayne Property Owners Association, Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration withdrew from the case and agreed not to drill the nine remaining “test” wells, this making the appeal moot. DCS and the Riverkeeper, however, have continued to pursue the case, seeking to revoke the permits for the five test wells that were allowed to move forward. Several days earlier, ProPublica broke the story on the reports submitted by the experts hired by DCS and the Riverkeeper in this case that provided testimony as to the dangers to the ecosystem posed by these vertical wells, despite the fact that they were not producing wells.

By the spring of 2011, DCS and attorney Jeffery Zimmerman began talks with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman about mounting a legal challenge to the proposed DRBC drilling regulations. DCS supplied Schneiderman with much of the technical information that became the basis of a suit the NYAG filed at the end of May 2011 challenging the federal government in its role on the DRBC in moving the regulations forward without first complying with the EIS requirements of NEPA. Schneidermanís suit was followed by similar suits by environmental organizations, including DCS against the DRBC proposed regs. The DCS suit, filed on August 10, 2011, is unique in that it also challenges the DRBC for its failure to conduct a public health impact assessment.