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Wayne Land and Mineral Group, LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 5, 2017

WAYNE LAND AND MINERAL GROUP, LLC Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE RIVER BASIN COMMISSION Defendant, and DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER NETWORK MAYA K. VAN ROSSUM, THE DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER Intervenors-Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is a Motion to Intervene filed by Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Inc. ("DCS"). (Doc. 49). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

         I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 17, 2016, Plaintiff Wayne Land & Mineral Group LLC filed a Complaint against Defendant Delaware River Basin Commission (the "DRBC"). (Doc. 1). In the Complaint, Plaintiff asks the Court to enter a declaratory judgment holding that the DRBC lacks jurisdiction or the authority to require it to seek prior approval from the DRBC for Plaintiffs intended plan to construct a well pad and drill a natural gas well on property which Plaintiff owns in Wayne County, Pennsylvania (75 acres of which is located in the Delaware River Basin).

         Intervenors-Defendants the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Maya K. Van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper (collectively referred to as the "DRN") filed a motion to intervene on July 5, 2015, (Doc. 10), which the Court granted on September 12, 2016, [1] (Doc. 26). On November 11, 2016, the DCS filed a Motion to Intervene. (Doc. 49). The DRBC opposes the DCS's Motion. (Doc. 61).

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The Delaware River Basin Compact (the "Compact") is an interstate compact dated November 2, 1961, by and among the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, New York State, New Jersey, Delaware, and the United States. (Doc. 11, at 2). The purpose of the Compact is the conservation, utilization, development, management and control of the water and related resources of the Delaware River Basin. (Id.) (citing 32 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 815.101). The Compact created the Defendant DRBC, which is tasked with the adoption and promotion of uniform and coordinated policies for water conservation, control, use and management in the Delaware River Basis. (Id.).

         The DCS "is a non-profit 501(c)(3) grass roots citizens group focused on protection of public health and the environment from pollution caused by oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling and production and related activities and infrastructure." (Doc. 55, at 3). It seeks to intervene in this litigation in order "to defend the jurisdiction of DRBC under the Compact and its authority over activities that may affect the water resources of the Basin." (Id.). According to the DCS:

Many of DCS's 5000 members live, work, have interests in, and recreate in the Delaware River Basin. Millions of others, such as residents of New York City and Philadelphia, use water from the Basin. DCS and its members rely on the Delaware River Basin Compact and its implementations by the Delaware River Basin Commission to review and regulate any and all projects that may have an adverse effect on the waters of the Basin and, by extension, public health and the environment of the Basin.
Since its inception in 2008 DCS has seen a growing number of cases where individuals and communities outside the Delaware River Basin have suffered serious health impacts from pollution caused by fracking near their homes and communities or upstream from them. DCS and its members are very concerned that similar types of fracking impacts would occur in the Basin if these activities are determined to be beyond the control of the DRBC.

(Id.). The Defendant DRBC opposes DCS's Motion. (Doc. 61).

         III ANALYSIS

         A. Intervention As of Right

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) governs intervention as of ...


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