* Vote postponed as commission considers new rules
* Environmentalists say delay is victory against drillers
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK, Nov 18 A key vote scheduled for
Monday to lift a natural gas drilling ban in the Delaware River
Basin was postponed on Friday as a commission overlooking water
supply in the region remained undecided about opening it up to
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates
water use across the 14,000 square mile (36,260 sq km),
gas-rich basin, suspended Monday's vote amid speculation that
its five members did not have the three votes needed to allow
"There are still some open issues that the commissioners
have to work through," said DRBC spokesman Clarke Rupert, who
had no new date for the vote.
Earlier this month, the DRBC proposed ending the drilling
moratorium in the basin that stretches across parts of
Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and sits atop
the country's biggest natural gas deposit: the Marcellus
Under proposed new regulations, the DRBC said that it will
provide water for no more than 300 natural gas wells over 18
months, at which point they will reassess the rules.
But concern that fracking, the drilling technique that
extracts gas from shale by pumping chemical-laced water into
rock underground, contaminates water supplies has led to
opposition to drilling in the area which provides water for
millions of homes across four states.
Environmentalists called the vote delay a victory against
"The postponement of the DRBC vote on natural gas
development regulations is a victory for clean drinking water,"
the New Jersey Sierra Club. "The vote was to take place on
Monday but was delayed as the measure did not have enough votes
to pass," it said.
The DRBC declined to comment on the voting.
The five commission members are the governors of the basin
states and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers'
North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal
New York, which has its own drilling ban in place, has
intimated that it will vote against opening the basin to
drilling, as has Delaware, while Pennsylvania is all for it. It
is unclear which way the Army Corps and New Jersey will vote.
(Reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Marguerita Choy)