Delaware River Basin Conservation Act

A bird flies along the bank of the Christina River, a part of the Delaware River Basin.

The Delaware River Basin Commission voted Thursday to place on hold a potential port expansion in New Jersey which would create a route for shipping fracking byproduct. 

The Gibbstown Logistics Center, a multi-use deep water seaport, introduced a plan to construct a wharf 650 feet from the Delaware River shoreline that would include a pair of deep water berths to accommodate the export of liquefied natural gas along the waterway. 

An administrative appeal was filed seeking a halt to the project, and ultimately, the commission voted to halt the project until all evidence could be more closely reviewed. 

"The evidentiary record, legal arguments of the interested parties are extensive," said Kenneth Warren as he read the General Counsel report during the meeting. "The commission chair asked me to assist in the review of the full administrative record, and to prepare documentation of the commissioner's decision on the administrative appeal. Given the size of the record, the technical nature of much of the extensive evidence, and the submission of briefs as recently as last week, completing a careful and thorough, right review by all of the commissioners...has not been possible, and additional time for review and deliberation is required."

Warren recommended holding off on approval for moving forward with the project, noting, though, that this action should not indicate an inclination for the commission to ultimately decide one way or the other.

"Given its existing government approvals, [they] could commence construction anytime after September 15th," he said. "The commissioners may wish to preserve the status quo by staying the document approval until the commission issues a final determination resolving the administrative appeal. This would not be intended to signal how the appeal will be resolved once your review is complete."

New York DRBC Commission Chair Ken Kosinski motioned to table the project for the time being. 

"I move, in order to protect the water resources of the basin, commission determination resolving the administrative appeal to docket D-2017-009-2, commission's approval of...the Dock II Project at the Gibbstown Logistics Center, is stayed upon adoption of this motion, terminating at such time that the commission makes a final determination resolving the administrative appeal."

Support was voiced by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, who said Delaware supports the stay and all of the hard work and "sheer magnitude of information and process that has gone on" by all parties put into making the appeal. 

"Delaware's looking to finish our thoughtful review of that information, but I want to be clear," Garvin said. "Delaware support for this motion is for us to reasonably complete the process, and should not be read as anything else."

The motion passed with only Lt. Col. David Park, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, voting against the motion. Pennsylvania representation abstained.

During the public comment section of the meeting, the commission found unanimous support for staying the project and pleas for them to ultimately reject what the project might mean for those who utilize or live along the river. 

"The league across the country believes that a democracy is best served when we have an informed public," said Coralie Pryde, of the Delaware League of Women Voters. "Delawareans, by and large, have not been very aware of the Gibbstown project. and this gives us a chance to look at it in further detail. So we thank the commission. The league also supports a full ban on fracking and all fracking-related activities."

The impacts would have detrimental effects on the food chain, fishing, and marine birds of the Delaware Bay, she said, adding studies show methane gas released from fracking can have effects 500 times as powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

"As you so clearly recognized, the impacts of this proposal for our watershed, our region, and our nation are precedent-setting, they're serious, they're significant," said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum. "So thank you for giving yourself additional time to fully and fairly consider this matter."