DAMASCUS TOWNSHIP, WAYNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The issue of natural gas drilling has divided neighbors in the Poconos for years.
With the Delaware River Basin Commission poised to implement a permanent fracking ban in Wayne and Pike counties by the end of the year, one state senator wants to protect landowners rights.
Environmental advocates say implementing a permanent ban on natural gas drilling would protect the Delaware River watershed.
“I’m in favor of a ban only because I don’t trust exactly the chemicals that they’re pumping into the ground,” Steve VanVarick of Damascus said.
Many property owners opposing the ban say they’re being treated like second class citizens.
They believe they’re losing out on jobs and economic opportunity and State Senator Lisa Baker agrees.
Senator Baker is now introducing legislation, Senate Bill 1189, that would require the Delaware River Basin Commission to compensate landowners if a fracking ban is enacted.
“You are permanently taking away the value of a landowners rights,” State Senator Lisa Baker said.
Since 2009, people in Wayne and Pike Counties have been living under a de-facto drilling moratorium which means they haven’t been able to get any money from the industry.
Jim Kingston spends about 50 days out of his summer fishing on the Delaware River.
He was intrigued by the proposed legislation.
“I think it’s a great idea but it sounds awfully complex,” Jim Kingston of Damascus said.
Senator Baker says her bill is a first step.
Much like eminent domain, a process and value would need to be established to pay landowners for their mineral rights.
Senator Baker says people in Wayne and Pike counties are growing more and more frustrated that they’re losing out and advocacy and lawsuits have so far been unsuccessful.
“This would be a very significant, precedent setting legislative attempt to resolve, what I view, as a major concern,” Senator Baker said.
Senator Baker says several of her republican colleagues have already shown support for the legislation.
It would require the Delaware River Basin Commission to pay landowners.
Senator Baker’s legislation would require the DRBC to pay any Pennsylvania landowner impacted so besides Wayne and Pike Counties, another living within the DRBC watershed in Carbon, Monroe, Lackawanna or Luzerne counties could also be affected.