HONESDALE - The Wayne County commissioners have agreed to assist the federal court in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a Lake Ariel group challenging the years-long drilling moratorium within the Delaware River Basin.

The commissioners last week voted to submit a brief offering information and legal research in assisting the court in reaching a decision in the suit filed by Wayne Land and Mineral Group against the New Jersey-based Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).

County Commissioner Wendell Kay stressed the move does not mean the commissioners will enter into the lawsuit or become party to the litigation in any way other than to supply the information they deem relevant to the case.

Wayne Lane believes the DRBC is overstepping its bounds in making certain restrictions, and is asking the federal court to declare the commission lacks authority to review and approve a natural gas well pad and related facilities and activities on property within the basin.

Wayne Lane has about 75 acres in the basin that overlay natural gas reserves in shale formations.

The DRBC's position is that any activity, development or other "human undertaking" - such as gas drilling - in the basin that uses water is a "project" the commission may review and approve if it believes the undertaking may have a "substantial effect" on water resources.

Kay said he believes the commissioners' move was a matter of “looking to protect the county's interests in regulating land use and the rights of the county.”

He added, “I don't want to see an outside agency come in and take precedence over local matters.”

In this manner, much of the information supplied by the commissioners will likely address the conflict between the DRBC's assumption of the territory it can regulate and the county commissioner's governing authority.

Commissioner Jonathan Fritz said he hopes the submission of the brief would at least “prompt reaction from the DRBC.”

He said he hopes the action would expedite the creation of the long-awaited DRBC drilling regulations, thereby lifting the moratorium.

Fritz added he believes the stagnation of the issue has left residents “deprived of some economic opportunity within our county.”

The moratorium in the basin consists of a nearly 14,000-square-mile watershed that straddles four states.