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December 14, 2017
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Zoning creep

A couple of news stories that have come up over the past few weeks have shone a light on a problem that could potentially threaten the quality of life any of us enjoy in our homes. We call this phenomenon “zoning creep:” the process by which, due to a failure of zoning boards to enforce regulations, poor judgment in applying regulations or a failure to appreciate the cumulative impact of successive alterations, the land use on some particular site becomes radically at variance with the character that the town intends for the zone in which it is located.  Read more

A question of intent

The table of compatible uses on page 134 of the River Management Plan (RMP) lists “gas/oil fields” as a permitted conditional use in the Delaware River corridor. But whether that phrase, written in 1986, can be taken to refer to modern horizontal hydro-fracking operations is a matter of controversy. In thrashing out the issue, we have heard both proponents and opponents of drilling in the corridor make varying assertions as to the RMP’s “original intent” on the subject.  Read more

Libraries: the great equalizers

One of the most disturbing things about hard economic times like those we now face is that the institutions that sometimes seem to be the first on the chopping block are those that serve the most basic of our common needs and aspirations. The privatization of Sullivan County’s Certified Home Health Agency, discussed in last week’s newspaper, which stands to remove a last recourse for home health care for the many in the county not fortunate enough to be insured, is one example.  Read more

Arbitrary and capricious

At the public comment portion of the UDC meeting on February 3, Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) asked Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) representative Clarke Rupert whether the agency considers public comments on proposed rulemakings to be “just an annoyance,” or whether it actually takes them into account in its final decisions. She cited the example of the Stone Energy water withdrawal, in which the preponderance of public comment was opposed, but the agency permitted the withdrawal anyway.  Read more

Laying blame in the wrong place

The Upper Delaware Council (UDC) recently sent a letter to the DRBC supporting the adoption of certain alterations in the existing Flexible Flow Management Plan (FFMP) governing releases from the New York City reservoirs to the Delaware River. The alterations are embodied in a white paper issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Bureau of Fisheries. The paper describes a flow management system that adopts the same structural principles as the current FFMP, but has more water—the equivalent of about 90 million gallons per day (mgd)—to play around with.  Read more

No grandfathering

At one of last year’s Upper Delaware Council (UDC) meetings, Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Carol Collier was asked what the agency would do if it issued a set of permitting rules and subsequent studies revealed that the regulations were insufficient to protect the watershed from harm.
The question was asked in light of two studies already planned, which will investigate the cumulative impact of hydro-fracking and related natural gas drilling technologies: the DRBC’s own study, to be carried out by the USGS, and another one to be undertaken by the EPA.  Read more