BUCKS COUNTY – September 16, 2022 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has upheld the June 2021 decision to allow a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin in a lawsuit to protect the drinking water for millions of Pennsylvanians.
In his opinion, Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes dismissed the appeal filed by the Republican Caucus and several municipalities for lack of standing to bring the case. “What Plaintiffs-Appellants cannot do is seek redress in federal court for broad institutional injuries about which they have no standing to complain,” Judge Fuentes wrote in his opinion.
“The drinking water of five million Pennsylvanians will remain safe from the hazardous environmental effects of fracking with today’s court opinion,” said Senator Santarsiero. “The Republican Caucus has once again been stopped in their misguided effort to overturn the now-permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware River. This is good news for the future of our water supply and our environment.”
The appeal stemmed from a June 2021 order entered by Judge Diamond in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that dismissed, with prejudice, the claims of the Senate Republican Caucus based on lack of standing to bring the lawsuit. Damascus and Dyberry Townships, and Carbon and Wayne Counties, local government plaintiffs in the lawsuit, also had claims dismissed at the time.
The Republican Senate Caucus filed the lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the Delaware River Basin Commission’s now-permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware Basin. In March 2021, Senate Democrats intervened in the lawsuit and were later joined by Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The intervening parties together filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs lacked standing.
Court filings and previous announcements on this matter can be found here.
BUCKS COUNTY – June 11, 2021 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) announced today that a federal judge sided with Senate Democrats to protect the drinking water of five million Pennsylvanians.
The order entered today by Judge Diamond in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismisses, with prejudice, the claims of the Senate Republican Caucus based on lack of standing to bring the lawsuit. The Republican Senate Caucus had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) now-permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware Basin. In March, Senate Democrats, intervened in the lawsuit and were later joined by Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The intervening parties together filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the plaintiffs lacked standing.
“This is an important victory in our effort to protect the drinking water of five million Pennsylvanians,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Today’s order granting our motion to dismiss the Senate Republican’s claim was granted with prejudice, which means they are not able to re-file their lawsuit. The DRBC has been a steward of our water supply, and with today’s order they will be able to continue to ensure the Delaware River is free from the hazardous environmental effects of fracking.”
The claims by the local government plaintiffs– Damascus and Dyberry Townships, and Carbon and Wayne Counties—were also dismissed. Those claims were dismissed without prejudice, for failing to state a claim for which relief can be granted. These plaintiffs were given until July 1, 2021 to provide an amended complaint. If they fail to do so by the deadline, their claim will then be dismissed with prejudice.
“I am confident that this is behind us,” continued Sen. Santarsiero. “If the local governments choose to file amended complaints, we will continue to engage in the lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment guarantees the right to clean, safe drinking water, and my Democratic colleagues and I will continue to do what is necessary to make that a reality across the Commonwealth.”
Court filings and previous announcements on this matter can be found here.
BUCKS COUNTY – April 15, 2021 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) held a virtual press conference today, along with Bucks County Commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Bob Harvie, Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan, and Steve Miano, counsel representing the Democratic Senators in Yaw v. DRBC, to announce that Bucks and Montgomery Counties have joined the Senator and his colleagues in their effort to preserve the authority of the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin.
“The Delaware River Basin is home to five million Pennsylvanians who are guaranteed the right to clean, safe drinking water through the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state Constitution,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Today, I am pleased to share that Bucks and Montgomery Counties have joined the effort, started by my Democratic colleagues and me, to protect that right, and ensure that the Delaware River Basin Commission can continue to act within its authority to keep our waters safe from fracking.”
“We are not just here for ourselves; we are here to prepare the world for future generations,” said Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Chair of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners. “Natural resources, including the river, need not be destroyed for our grandchildren and their grandchildren by selfish covetous acts in 2021.”
“The Delaware River has been the lifeblood of Bucks County since the arrival of William Penn. It’s impossible to overstate its importance to the history, economy and culture of our county. We need to do all we can to protect it,” said Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie.
Sen. Santarsiero also shared that the Senate Democrats today filed their motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ suit, in which they have sought to overturn the Delaware River Basin Commission’s now-permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware Basin.
“The DRBC has continued its steadfast commitment to protecting the Delaware River Basin, as it was charged to do, and by doing so, has helped ensure our right as Pennsylvanians to clean water,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Our position is strong, and I believe that constitutional right for all Pennsylvanians will be found to supersede the Republicans’ arguments for monetizing our natural resources.”
“The Plaintiff Counties who joined this misguided lawsuit do not speak for all counties within the Delaware River Basin – and they certainly don’t speak for the people of Bucks and Montgomery County,” said Bucks County Solicitor Joe Khan. “We have a fundamentally different view of the constitutional right to clean water, and of our obligation to protect our natural resources. We are proud to stand with our allies in asserting our interest in preserving the prohibition against fracking.”
Montgomery County Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence, who were unable to participate in the press conference, voiced their support in written statements.
“The quality of the Delaware River Basin watershed is critical to the health of 5.6 million Pennsylvanians, the sustainability of countless species, and local jobs,” said Dr. Val Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “This lawsuit stands to put our drinking water and economy at risk and it should be dismissed.”
“Montgomery County is proud to stand with the intervener State Senators in seeking to have this lawsuit dismissed,” said Kenneth E. Lawrence, Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “Protecting the Delaware River Basin from fracking is vital to the preservation of more than 13,000 square miles of drinking water that supplies the Delaware River and its tributaries.”
The Democratic Senators’ motion to intervene in the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and was granted on March 19, 2021. Court filings and previous announcements on this matter can be found here.
BUCKS COUNTY – March 29, 2021 − State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) held a virtual press conference last week to announce the Democratic Senators’ motion to intervene in Yaw v. Delaware River Basin Commission was granted by the judge on Friday, March 19, 2021.
“My colleagues and I are participating in this lawsuit to preserve the authority of the Delaware River Basin Commission to protect the drinking water of more than 13 million people,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Exercising its lawful jurisdiction, the DRBC has banned fracking in the Delaware watershed for over 10 years now. In doing so, it has protected that water from the harmful effects of fracking.”
The next step, according to Sen. Santarsiero, will be to file a motion to dismiss the initial lawsuit, which is planned for April.
“The motion will seek to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs lack standing and their claims are not supported by the law, ” Santarsiero said. “I believe that our position is strong. As I mentioned a few weeks ago when we first moved to intervene, the plaintiffs are trying to turn the state constitution’s environmental rights amendment on its head, arguing it requires that we monetize our natural resources. That’s not at all what the environmental rights amendment stands for, and not what the people of Pennsylvania agreed to when they ratified it at the ballot box.”
Senator Santarsiero previously held a press conference, along with Senators Kearney and Cappelletti, on Friday, March 12, 2021 in New Hope to announce the filing of a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed by Republican State Senators, in which they sought to overturn the Delaware River Basin Commission’s ban on fracking. The video of the press conference is available here. The motion to intervene can be found here.
BUCKS COUNTY − March 12, 2021 − State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) was joined by Democratic colleagues today in New Hope to announce their action to protect clean drinking water for millions of Pennsylvanians from the environmental hazards of fracking. Their action is in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican senators against the Delaware River Basin Commission to allow natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin in Pennsylvania.
Arguing for the constitutional right of millions of Pennsylvanians to clean water, the motion to intervene was filed earlier in the day in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the case of Yaw v. The Delaware River Basin Commission. Republican caucus members had filed suit against the DRBC in January 2021, and in late February the Delaware River Keeper Network successfully intervened in the case.
“Clean water and air is a constitutional right for all Pennsylvanians, and it’s the duty of the General Assembly to ensure those rights are not infringed upon,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “The people of Bucks County – and the rest of the Delaware River Basin – have a constitutional right to clean, safe drinking water. We are not going to allow the oil and gas industry to contaminate that water. Working within its authority, the DRBC has been a steadfast champion for protecting the assets of the Delaware River Basin since its inception. Thanks to the DRBC and the work of environmental advocates, an incredible amount of progress has been made over the years to clean our waterways and create a reliable source of drinking water for millions of people. We have come too far to cede that progress to the damaging effects of fracking on our environment and land.”
“The DRBC was created 60 years ago to manage the river system and protect our water resources, including protecting the watershed from the harmful impacts of fracking,” said Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-19), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “The DRBC exercised its authority, with all four basin states voting to ban fracking. Individual Pennsylvania legislators don’t get to pick and choose when it comes to the compact’s decisions. We support the DRBC in its decision to ban fracking – one that upholds Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and protects our right to clean water.”
More than a decade ago, DRBC unanimously voted in favor of a moratorium on fracking pending the adoption of new regulations. Since then, the Commission has received almost 80,000 public comments which have been considered in updated draft rules.
“There is mounting evidence from throughout our Commonwealth that fracking cannot be conducted safely and, in many cases, permanently and completely contaminates our shared drinking water resources,” said Sen. Katie Muth. “I applaud the Delaware River Basin Commission for preventing this dangerous and harmful industrial activity from rendering the drinking water for 8.3 million Pennsylvanians unsafe and unusable. Moreover, I am appalled that my Senate colleagues from the Majority Party are willing to sacrifice the health of their constituents in the name of industry profit. Without water, our homes are rendered valueless, our public health severely deteriorates due to toxic and radioactive fracking waste, and our environment is polluted for generations to come. I stand in defense of the public health and environmental quality for all Pennsylvanians and strongly oppose any effort to harm our drinking water resources in the name of corporate greed.”
“Clean drinking water is a constitutional right in Pennsylvania, and an imperative to our health and survival as a species,” said Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-17). “The Delaware River Basin delivers drinking water to 13.3 million people. We joined the DCRB to maintain the safety of that water. Legislators who are threatening that mission should be ashamed of their thinly veiled attempt at a power grab. The citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvanian and the citizens of New York, New Jersey and Delaware have an inviolable right to keeping this water, their drinking water, clean.”
Five million Pennsylvanians across 17 counties reside in the Basin, which includes Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, Chester and Philadelphia counties. The Delaware River Basin spans 6,471 square miles in the Commonwealth, across 522 municipalities.
“I chose to sign on as an intervenor in this case because I know my constituents and all Pennsylvanians take seriously their constitutional right to clean air and water,” said Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11). “It is my solemn and sworn duty to protect that right. This may be our last stand in attempting to protect the waters of the Delaware River Basin from the environmental hazards created by fracking. These waters are a drinking, agricultural and industrial water resource for more than 13 million Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey residents.”
Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) added, “My constituents and I know firsthand what it’s like to have to fight for “pure water” as guaranteed by the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the terror felt when that bond has been broken. The argument made by my Republican colleagues that, as trustees of Pennsylvania’s national resources under this Amendment, they must protect the pecuniary value of such resources over the health and survival of the people and ecosystems dependent on them is not just unconstitutional, it’s inhuman.”
Sen. Vince Hughes (D-7) said, “Protecting the quality of ground and surface water and the future of the Delaware River Basin has broad support from the public in Pennsylvania and the other three states impacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission. Simply put, the commission is acting to protect those interests and the right to pure water. We join in this suit to protect those rights and to prevent adverse impacts from affecting our region.”
In a February 2021 DRBC meeting the 4 member states unanimously voted to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin. During the special meeting, the United States abstained from the vote, but indicated support for the result.
“My colleagues and I are intervening to fight for the 13 million people who get their water from the Delaware River Basin and protect the Constitutional right of all Pennsylvanians to clean air and clean water,” said Sen. John Kane (D-9). “The DRBC voted unanimously to ban fracking after hearing tens of thousands of comments over several years — that’s what our communities want, and that’s how to keep Pennsylvanians safe. I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues in intervening in support of the DRBC.”
Sen. Sharif Street (D-3) said, “The Delaware River Basin Commission’s decision is not only within their authority as custodians of the waters of the Delaware River Basin but is also constitutionally sound. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to protect our environment and the people of Pennsylvania. ”
“I’m proud to stand side by side with my colleagues in the Senate’s Democratic Caucus in support of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s decision to permanently ban fracking. This hard-fought, hard-won decision was years in the making. It is a victory for advocates, organizers, the millions of people who live within the river basin, and for the river itself. My entire district is not only within the basin, but runs along the Delaware River. I’m grateful to DRBC for protecting the lives and livelihoods of my constituents, and I’m grateful to my fellow Democratic Senators for setting their stakes in the ground with mine.” Senator Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia)
Environmental groups have long advocated for protecting the Delaware River Basin and for the constitutional right of all Pennsylvanians to clean air and water. They shared their overwhelming support for the Democratic Senators’ intervention in the lawsuit in written statements.
In a statement read during the press conference, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania said, “We would like to thank Senator Santarsiero and his colleagues in the Pennsylvania Senate for filing a motion to intervene in Yaw v. DRBC. Thousands of residents and countless elected officials and experts have spoken out in support of banning fracking in the Delaware River Basin.”
Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network said, “The Delaware River is irreplaceably important to our entire region. To allow it to be sacrificed to the fracking industry, to be used to advance the climate crisis, and to be used to help advance an industry that is devastating the health, safety, lives, property values, quality of life and local economies of entire communities is indefensible. It is even worse that the republican legislative caucus, Senators Yaw and Baker would be seeking to misuse Pennsylvania’s constitutional environmental rights amendment and to deny Pennsylvania’s support for the Delaware River Basin Commission is an abuse of power and trust. I would like to thank Senator Steve Santarsiero and the legislators of the Democratic Caucus for seeking to join the ongoing lawsuit so they can rise up and defend our river, our environment and the environmental rights of the people of Pennsylvania.”
“PennEnvironment applauds the state senators who’ve come together today from across the Delaware River watershed to stand up and defend this great river,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur in a written statement. “Fracking shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, much less near an iconic natural waterway like the Delaware River, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans. Given that local Pennsylvanians voiced their overwhelming support for protecting the Delaware River from fracking during the public input processes, it’s unfortunate that the elected officials who are the plaintiffs in the ‘Yaw v. DRBC’ case are using the courts to undo the will of local residents.
The Democratic Caucus members who have signed onto the lawsuit are Senators Steve Santarsiero (D- Bucks), Carolyn Comitta (D- Chester), Amanda Cappelletti (D- Montgomery, Delaware), Maria Collett (D- Montgomery, Bucks), Wayne Fontana (D- Allegheny), Art Haywood (D- Montgomery, Philadelphia), Vince Hughes (D- Philadelphia), John Kane (D- Chester, Delaware), Tim Kearney (D- Delaware), Katie Muth (D- Berks, Chester, Montgomery), John Sabatina (D- Philadelphia), Nikil Saval (D- Philadelphia), Judy Schwank (D- Berks), Sharif Street (D- Philadelphia), Tina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) , and Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia).