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Most Recent Commission Meeting Highlights

The page offers a full recap of the most recent DRBC Commission Business Meeting.

Meeting of December 7, 2022

The Delaware River Basin Commission held its regularly scheduled public business meeting on Wednesday, December 7, 2022.

The meeting was held remotely via Zoom Webinar.

A public hearing was held remotely on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, via Zoom Webinar. Items heard at the public hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m., included 19 draft dockets for withdrawals, discharges and other water-related projects subject to the Commission's review.

Written comments on all matters heard on November 9 were accepted through 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Both the public hearing and business meeting were livestreamed to DRBC's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/delrivbasincomm

Business Meeting Agenda:

The business meeting on December 7, 2022, began at 10:30 a.m. and adjourned at approximately 12 p.m.; there was an open public comment session after the close of the business meeting, which ran until approximately 1:15 p.m.

Please Note: Comments made during Open Public Comment Sessions are NOT included in any decision-making record. There is no requirement for the Commission to provide for open public comment.

The agenda for the business meeting follows, with links to the items approved (links to documents are added to this page as they become available).

Items heard at the November 9, 2022, public hearing are noted by *. 

1. Call to Order. (Commission Chair, Lisa Daniels, PADEP)

2. Roll Call and Introductions. (Commission Secretary Pam Bush and Commissioners)

3. Minutes. (Pam Bush; The minutes of the September 8, 2022, business meeting was approved by unanimous vote)

4. Announcements.

5. Hydrologic Conditions Report. (Amy Shallcross)

6. Summary of Executive Director's Report. (Steve Tambini)

This report will focus on the important ongoing work of the DRBC in revising the aquatic life use water quality standards for the Delaware River Estuary.

  • Commissioners, as a part of your directive for revising aquatic life water quality standards for a portion of the Delaware Estuary and for continuing to improve dissolved oxygen conditions near Philadelphia and Camden, you directed the Commission staff to undertake a series of studies in collaboration with member states, EPA and interested stakeholders. The draft studies have been a high priority for the staff and were posted on the DRBC website in September 2022. Anyone seeking an unfiltered, deeper dive into the science is encouraged to access and read them.

  • These reports are the culmination of years of intensive effort involving scientific, engineering and technical expertise across multiple disciplines. They were conducted in cooperation with the DRBC's state and federal coregulators and stakeholders and with a high degree of transparency. Each phase of the Commission's work was presented to DRBC's Water Quality Advisory Committee, on which dischargers, the scientific community, environmental groups and co-regulators, including the EPA, are represented. The study results are supported by robust data, state-of-the-art hydrodynamic and water quality models and cost and socioeconomic evaluations. These draft reports are the technical basis for eventual rulemaking and were delivered on time in accordance with Commission directives to staff. Full information on this effort can be found at https://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/quality/designated-use.html.

  • I would like to recognize and offer appreciation for the hard work, expertise and professionalism of the DRBC technical staff. They have completed a significant body of scientific and engineering work that provides a solid foundation for establishing new water quality standards consistent with Clean Water Act requirements. But the work product does more than provide a basis for new standards. It provides the Basin community with a road map for achieving real improvements in water quality and ecosystem health by elevating dissolved oxygen in the most urbanized reach of the Delaware River Estuary.

  • I am especially proud that my colleagues, a group of people whose professional and ethical standards are first-class, performed this work for the most part in-house, with limited if exceptional staff resources; during a period of the COVID pandemic when state and DRBC funding was in jeopardy; and when DRBC concurrently delivered other milestone work for managing, protecting and improving the water resources of the Delaware River Basin. I would also like to thank the Commissioners and your agency staff and the staff at EPA for their continued technical support throughout this process.

  • The Delaware River Basin Compact recognizes the waters and related resources of the Delaware River Basin as regional assets vested with local, state and national interests. Yet, the water resources of the Delaware River Basin do NOT benefit from anywhere near the same federal investment as other interstate water bodies. Significant funding and investments in the Delaware River Basin are needed to implement these and address other water resource needs and challenges. Thank you, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, for your continued support in the form of signatory funding for DRBC base operations. I also would like to recognize New Jersey DEP and Pennsylvania DEP for providing supplemental funding over several years to help support the DRBC's Aquatic Life Designated Use project.

  • On a related matter, last week on December 1, the U.S. EPA issued its response to a April 2022 Petition filed by a group of non-governmental organizations that sought to bypass ongoing DRBC processes and compel EPA to commence a separate action to revise water quality standards in the Delaware River Estuary. Because of the significant progress DRBC has already made—working in close collaboration with EPA and state co-regulators—to update these standards, the Commission viewed the Petition as unnecessary. Nevertheless, DRBC respects the EPA Administrator's Determination, has no significant objections to it and welcomes EPA's continued and deeper engagement in this effort. View the EPA Determination and the DRBC's response at https://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/quality/designated-use.html#5. Allow me to quote a few relevant sections and key points from the EPA Determination:
    • On Page 1 of the determination EPA confirms "that revised water quality standards to protect aquatic life in zones 3, 4, and upper 5 of the Delaware River Estuary in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania are necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Clean Water Act."

    • On Page 7 of the determination EPA describes the basis for its decision by referring to DRBC's September 2022 draft Analysis of Attainability report when it states: "the analyses set forth in the draft analysis of attainability indicate that the … use of 'propagation' is attainable under the Clean Water Act and the Water Quality Standards for the specified zones must be revised accordingly." 

    • On Page 11, the last page of the Determination letter, EPA includes several important key points:

      • First EPA states that they "acknowledge and appreciate DRBC's and your states' commitment to updating the Water Quality Standards for the specified zones of the Delaware River Estuary."

      • Second, EPA states: "This determination does not preclude DRBC from proceeding with its own rulemaking effort, and EPA welcomes the opportunity to discuss whether DRBC's March 2025 deadline could be accelerated." The DRBC authority has not been superseded by EPA. 

      • Regarding the EPA's rulemaking schedule in the determination letter, I will read the relevant section, but I would also suggest you contact EPA if you need further clarification. Again, on Page 11, EPA states, "In this particular case, given the readily available information that DRBC and other stakeholders have generated, EPA believes that 12 months is a reasonable timeframe to develop proposed federal regulations." Proposed regulations, not adopted regulations. 

      • There is one more issue worth noting in the determination letter concerning schedule and next steps. The determination states: "In the event that DRBC adopts …and then EPA approves revised Water Quality Standards that sufficiently address this Determination before EPA proposes or promulgates federal Water Quality Standards, EPA would no longer be obligated to propose or promulgate those federal Water Quality Standards."

      • Finally, the EPA determination letter ends on a theme that DRBC and the states have emphasized throughout this project by stating: "EPA is committed to continuing to work with DRBC and the member states to ensure that protective aquatic life uses and associated water quality criteria are supported by science and law."

  • Also last week, members of the Water Quality Advisory Committee, the estuary dischargers and other interested parties submitted comments on the DRBC's draft technical, engineering and socio-economic reports, and we appreciate the thoughtful and in-depth comments that were provided. Reviewing these comments and finalizing the draft reports should not impact the schedule for proposed rules to revise the water quality standards in the Estuary to include fish propagation as the designated use and to provide water quality criteria to protect and support that use. When rulemaking occurs, the public will have ample opportunity to comment on any rules proposed and on any supporting information used as the basis of support for the rulemaking.

  • DRBC science has illuminated the path forward by showing not only that water quality supportive of propagation in the urban Estuary is attainable, but by providing essential information about what measures must be taken to achieve it. The DRBC and its co-regulators will be working jointly to revise the water quality standards in the Delaware River Estuary as referenced in DRBC Resolutions and as provided in the recent EPA determination. The solutions will require significant policy and regulatory changes and then, significant investment, mostly in additional point source wastewater treatment. All perspectives will be heard and considered in the course of any rulemaking or implementation planning process conducted by the DRBC, member states or the EPA. 

  • In conclusion, Commissioners, your 2017 Resolution initiated the next chapter in the story of improving water quality in the Delaware River Estuary. Through cooperation, joint action, infrastructure investment and public funding, co-regulators, dischargers and Basin communities have brought this water body from a condition of chronic dead zone hypoxia to one of vastly improved ecosystem health. The water quality story of our Delaware Estuary is still being written. To write this next chapter and achieve the next level of water quality improvements, we will need to work together as we have in the past.

  • Shifting gears, please join me in welcoming two new staff members to DRBC. Chris McCann recently joined DRBC staff as Government Affairs Lead. Chris was formerly the Legislative Director for U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. Next week, we will be joined by Jeremy Conkle, Ph.D., as he assumes the role of Senior Toxicologist, formally held by Dr. Ron MacGillivray, who retired from the DRBC in July 2022 after 20+ years of service. Dr. Conkle was formerly an associate professor at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

  • Finally, I want to thank DRBC staff for continuing the tradition of supporting two great organizations once again this holiday season – the Salvation Army of Trenton's Angel Tree program and the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank serving our local Mercer County/Trenton NJ/ Morrisville, Pennsylvania area. We at the DRBC wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season!

7. General Counsel's Report. (Ken Warren)

8. Resolution 2022-04. (Steve Tambini; public hearings held Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, 2021, and Feb. 3, 2022)

  • A RESOLUTION to amend the Comprehensive Plan, Water Code and Special Regulations regarding importations of water into and exportations of water from the Delaware River Basin and discharges of wastewater from high volume hydraulic fracturing ("HVHF") and HVHF-related activities. (this Resolution was approved 4-0 by the Commissioners (Federal Government abstained); pdf)

  • Full Information on this Final Rulemaking

  • Summary of Executive Director Steve Tambini's Comments:

    • Thank you, Commissioners, for your thoughtful deliberations and policy decisions to protect the Basin's shared water resources from the risks posed by high volume hydraulic fracturing or "HVHF". The rule amendments adopted today, combined with the prohibition on HVHF within the Basin adopted in February 2021, address these risks in two powerful and targeted ways: first, by prohibiting high volume hydraulic fracturing anywhere in the Delaware River Basin and second, by prohibiting the discharge of wastewater from HVHF activities to the lands or waters of the Basin. With these strong measures, you have distinguished yourselves and DRBC as national leaders in setting comprehensive regulatory protections for our shared water resources. In addition, you strengthened the DRBC's policies concerning the transfer of water and wastewater into and out of the Basin. These strong safeguards are based upon sound science. They properly focus on DRBC's mission to manage and protect the Basin's water resources and are rooted in the authorities conferred on DRBC by the Delaware River Basin Compact.

    • Collectively, we take pride in the fact that our stakeholder community deeply values the Basin's water resources and advocates for their protection. And, to our Basin community, thank you for your heartfelt engagement on this issue. Whether you provided written comments or attended meetings, your time and perspectives were valued. As you will see when you read the rule text and accompanying documents, the Commission made certain changes that many commenters asked for.

    • While the Commission has broad authority over the Basin's water resources, that authority is not unbounded. The Commission is limited, for example, in regulating activities outside the Basin's geographic boundary. I can nevertheless say with confidence that the Commission's state and federal members are working to support policies to develop a clean energy future. And I encourage our stakeholders to continue addressing your concerns beyond the scope of the DRBC through the multiple political, legislative and regulatory avenues we are privileged to have in our democratic system.

    • To the staffs of our members' agencies and the DRBC staff, thank you for years of dedicated and painstaking work. Developing, promulgating and defending robust policies and rules for addressing the risks to water resources posed by HVHF was no small task. The comment and response document published in February 2021 is one of the most comprehensive technical reviews of the impacts of HVHF on water resources we know of, numbering 476 pages and supported by over 1,000 technical references. Likewise, the 128-page comment and response document prepared in support of today's decision is a comprehensive and detailed guide to understanding the Commission's action.

    • Moving forward, the DRBC invites stakeholders to continue to engage on the many water resources issues in the DRBC portfolio, whether by serving on one of our advisory committees, participating in our public hearings, signing up for our email and social media updates or simply by being mindful stewards of the Basin's water resources in your daily lives.

9. Resolution for the Minutes. (Elizabeth Koniers Brown)

10. Resolution for the Minutes. (Elba Deck)

11. Resolution for the Minutes. (Elba Deck)

*12. Project Review Docket Applications. (David Kovach; approved dockets are all pdfs) 

  • Please note that at each of its public meetings, the Commission may consider action on any item for which a hearing has been completed or may defer one or more such items for consideration at a public meeting of the Commission on a future date.

  • Dockets #1-19 were subject to public hearings on November 9, 2022.

  • Dockets #16 and #18 were postponed to allow additional time for review.

  • Dockets #1-15, #17 and #19 were approved unanimously by the Commissioners on December 7, 2022.  

View docket location map of projects heard on November 9 (pdf)

  1. Boyertown Foundry Co, D-1985-080-5.

  2. Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc., D-1986-042 CP-3.

  3. Town of Newton, D-1990-111 CP-3.

  4. Mount Pocono Municipal Authority, D-1991-027 CP-3.

  5. Monroe Energy, LLC, D-1996-052-3.

  6. BlueTriton Brands, Inc., D-1997-046-5.

  7. Crayola, LLC., D-2000-033-3.

  8. Northampton Borough Municipal Authority, D-2004-013 CP-3.

  9. River Road Utilities, Inc., D-2006-038-4.

  10. Morrisville Municipal Authority, D-2008-006 CP-4.

  11. Bluestone Country Club, D-2011-024-2.

  12. Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority, D-2012-001 CP-3.

  13. Eagle Point Power Generation LLC, D-2012-010 CP-2.

  14. Kimberly-Clark Corporation, D-2012-012 CP-2.

  15. Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc., D-1989-040 CP-3.

  16. Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority - DELCORA, D-1992-018 CP-5. This docket was postponed to allow additional time for review.

  17. United Corrstack LLC - DBA DS Smith Reading Mill, D-1993-040-4.

  18. E Tetz & Sons, D-2020-001-1. This docket was postponed to allow additional time for review.

  19. Montgomery County, D-2022-002 CP-1.