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Delaware River Basin Commission extends comment period on fracking ban

Houston — The Delaware River Basin Commission extended by a month the period for submitting written comments on its controversial proposed regulations to ban hydraulic fracturing within the four-state basin it oversees.

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The commission said Tuesday it was extending the comment period to March 30, from a prior February 28 deadline.

The DRBC also added two public hearings on the proposed rule, which has been widely panned by the oil and gas industry, while praised by environmentalist organizations.

"The commissioners believe the extended comment period and two additional hearings announced today in response to numerous requests will provide adequate opportunities for the public and government officials to study the proposed regulations and offer input to inform the commissioners' decision-making process," DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini said in a statement.

After years of debating the issue, the commission last month formally proposed banning fracking in its watershed, which includes parts of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Groups representing the exploration-and-production industry such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition vehemently oppose such a ban, saying it would effectively shut down oil and gas development in a region considered highly prospective for Marcellus Shale production.

To date the commission has scheduled four public hearings on the proposed rule, two on January 23 in Waymart, Pennsylvania, and two on January 25 in Philadelphia.

In addition, the commission will now hold a hearing on February 22 in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, and a moderated public hearing by telephone on March 6.

Written comments on the draft regulations should be submitted through the DRBC's online comments webpage. Written comments, which will receive the same consideration as oral comments, will be accepted until 5 pm EST on March 30, the commission said.

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency made up of representatives of the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

--Jim Magill,
--Edited by Lisa Miller,