How to move along the stalled process of getting hydrofracturing in Wayne County was the subject of a meeting Thursday afternoon.
— How to move along the stalled process of getting hydrofracturing in Wayne County was the subject of a meeting Thursday afternoon.
The meeting, called just the day before by Sen. Pay Toomey, was attended by a large majority of people who are in favor of having fracking in the county.
It was billed as a "roundtable" discussion and held in the meeting room of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
Toomey opened the meeting by saying he wanted to hear from people "about how I can help with what's on your minds" concerning jobs and the economy.
But he then turned his focus on fracking, asking the group, "How can we move froward on Marcellus shale?"
Toomey said the "benefits are many" when it comes to gas production. He added that "we all agree" that "development be in a responsible way."
The hold up, according to the group, is the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). That is a multi-state group which controls water in the basin. It was formed during the Kennedy Administration and the federal government has a seat at the table on the DRBC.
"DRBC is an unusual thing," said local businessman Tom Shepstone. He called it a "rogue agency" and said the federal government "should start reigning it in. If it was up to me, the DRBC would be gone."
Shepstone says that "radical environmentalists" are in control of the DRBC.
Toomey asked if the DRBC has statutory authority when it comes to regulations.
Sheptsone said the group should not be dealing with water quality but that is how it has been operating on this particular issue.
Curt Coccodrilli of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance (NWPOA) said he is frustrated because they have been waiting years for a ruling by the DRBC.
"We don't even know when it's going to be on the agenda," said Coccodrilli.
What has been on the table for years is a proposal to allow for 300 test wells in Wayne County.
But the commission, with votes from the federal government along with the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware, has not acted.
Shepstone pointed the finger at Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, who he said wants there to be at least four votes in favor of the wells.
He said nowhere in the rules does it say there has to be a "supermajority."
Toomey also asked if there is anything in the DRBC charter which says they have to take a vote on the issue. Those in the group said there is nothing.
"It's really just a matter of having the political will to force a vote," said Toomey.
"Gov. Christie's political will is at stake," said Shepstone. "We know where there hearts are, they just don't have the guts to do it."
Coccodrilli said he thinks the DRBC makeup is all wrong. He said that 51 percent of the land within the DRBC is in Pennsylvania but the state has only one vote of five on the board.
Shepstone then began discussing how he thinks environmental groups are exploiting the system and stopping the process.
"The radical environmentalists have leverage well beyond their numbers," said Shepstone.
They do that, he said, by gaining "standing to sue" when it comes to matters such as shale.
He said the groups are "able to exploit" the system and "slow things down."
Coccodrilli pointed to the Equal Justice Act, which he called "little known" legislation passed during the Carter Administration.
That act, he said, allows recovery of legal funds from the government to groups in lawsuits. In essence, said Coccodrilli, it allows "us to sue ourselves."
Toomey took note of the Equal Justice Act and said he would look into the matter.
Toomey then turned to the economic aspect of fracking, saying it is positive.
"I've seen first hand how powerful this is," said Toomey.
He said in counties where development is very active, there is virtually "full employment."
In other areas where there isn't fracking, he said, unemployment numbers are very high.
Toomey said he would reach out to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett to "see what else I can do. I want to have a constructive role. I will push for a vote."
Toomey also said he believes that shale gas could mean big things when it comes to energy in America.
"For the first time in history there is a viable alternative to gasoline and diesel," said Toomey.
He concluded by saying, "This is a huge winner for us."