Landowners File Suit to Frack in Wayne County

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PRESTON TOWNSHIP -- For years, Wayne County has been frack-free, but some landowners want that to change.

A citizens group has filed a lawsuit against the Delaware River Basin Commission that, years ago, put a de facto moratorium on natural gas drilling.

Northern Wayne County is wide open with lots of farmland and hunting club property as well. It's also where the latest battle to drill for natural gas in this part of the Marcellus Shale has just started.

A lawsuit filed in federal court against the agency that regulates fracking pits a group of landowners at the Beaver Hollow Rod and Gun Club against the Delaware River Basin Commission or DRBC.

"We just want an answer once and for all," said Curt Coccodrilli who represents the Wayne Land and Mineral Group.

The group is fighting to have a natural gas well pad on its property arguing that the DRBC doesn't have any power to regulate fracking.

"We want to harvest our own minerals in an environmentally responsible manner and we intend to do so," added Coccodrilli.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has had regulations in place for years now, allowing for fracking to take place. Meanwhile, the DRBC has yet to adopt regulations after starting the process more than five years ago.

"The DRBC is obligated to take as much time as is necessary to satisfy all environmental concerns," said Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.

Fracking opponents believe the DRBC is protecting the natural resources along the Delaware River as well as the river itself.

A few years ago, natural gas companies with leases in Wayne County pulled out which many considered a victory for the anti-fracking movement.

But there are people, including Tom Shepstone, who feel the DRBC has denied Wayne County landowners their economic rights.

"For five years they've been sitting on draft regulations and pretending this is somehow appropriate," he said.

The Delaware River Basin Commission said it plans to defend its authority to regulate fracking in the basin. One group that opposes drilling for natural gas considers the lawsuit frivolous but the plaintiffs are hopeful it will open up the area for fracking once and for all.

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