As the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) conducts its quarterly business meeting today, a coalition of organizations strongly criticized the agency for prohibiting public comment at the event and continuing to issue water permits for the natural gas industry without taking measures to prevent negative impacts across the Basin.
In a March 9 letter to SRBC, the groups said that full public participation at all meetings is necessary for the Commission to receive valuable public and expert input, have current information to consider in its permit reviews, and, as a public agency, to maintain transparent decision-making. (The full text of the letter is available by clicking here.)
The Commissioners represent Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But at a recent hearing on 40 water withdrawal permits to support the natural gas industry, only the Commission chair (from Pennsylvania) was present and comment was taken by a hearing officer.
This highlighted growing concern that SRBC is violating its mandate to operate on the basis of equal, joint involvement by all member states. SRBC continues to approve permits and will soon put in place weak regulations to promote shale gas development in Pennsylvania—even though the other two members, Maryland and New York, haven’t decided whether to even allow it to occur. And by not conducting any studies to determine the effects of the industry across the Basin over time, SRBC is ignoring its legal requirement for long-term planning. (These points are detailed in a document available here.)
(Photo by Susquehanna River Basin Commission)
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