Property owners stump for drilling rights at Wayne County barbecue

By Denis J. O’Malley (Staff Writer)
Published: October 3, 2010

DYBERRY TWP. – The constitutionality of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s role in regulating the burgeoning natural gas industry in Wayne County came into question Saturday afternoon at a gathering of drilling advocates.

“Our nemesis is the Delaware River Basin Commission,” said Bob Suhosky, a member of the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force who holds a lease individually in Cherry Ridge Twp. “They’re taking a certain amount of constitutional rights from us.”

Mr. Suhosky was addressing the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance’s annual meeting and barbecue at the Wayne County Fair Grounds. He said he feels the commission’s permit moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed effectively robs landowners in the area of their right to develop their property.

“We have the rights down below, and we have the right to reap the fruit of that,” Mr. Suhosky said.

The commission is developing draft natural gas regulations in response to the industry’s drive to exploit natural gas reserves in the Delaware River watershed. The agency is responsible for protecting water quality for the multistate watershed, which provides drinking water to an estimated 15 million people. The draft regulations are expected to be published this month.

Marian Schweighofer, executive director of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, concurred with Mr. Suhosky’s views.

“In America, we own the property. We own it from here to China,” Ms. Schweighofer said. “If there’s a taking, you’re supposed to be compensated for it.”

According to Ms. Schweighofer, the Delaware River Basin Commission entered into the natural gas arena shortly after the Susquehanna River Basin Commission did so in 2008. The difference is that the SRBC established regulations within the year, whereas the DRBC has yet to produce a draft of its own regulations.

“It’s definitely a delay in developing our well potential,” Ms. Schweighofer said. “We can’t get past step one.”

David Mandelbaum, legal counsel for the Alliance, confirmed he expects those regulations soon.

“The likely outcome of this is there will be regulations that are reasonable and will allow substantial natural gas drilling,” Mr. Mandelbaum said.

Still, that may only be the opening salvo between pro- and anti-drilling factions.

“I expect to get a draft this month and then a war to start,” he added.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times