Apr. 11—Carbon County will join other counties and lawmakers in a federal suit involving the Delaware River Basin Commission and its ban on natural gas fracking in the Delaware River Basin.
The county commissioners on Thursday accepted a proposal from Newman Williams PC of Stroudsburg to represent them in the suit seeking to overturn a moratorium on natural gas drilling and fracking near the river and its tributaries.
The suit, spearheaded by state Sens. Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw, claims the commission overstepped its authority with the ban. Pennsylvania sits on billions of dollars of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formations, the suit said.
Fracking, however, is controversial due to environmental concerns. It involves using high pressure to inject a large volume of water, chemicals and sand into Marcellus Shale, causing it to crack and release natural gas.
Prior to the permanent ban, the commission instituted a moratorium in 2010 in the base, until it established regulations for natural gas drilling.
Commissioner Chris Lukasevich said in an email that he personally feels that joining the action is more about a potentially "slippery slope."
The commission has set a precedent with the restriction and has potentially opened the door to further bans beyond its authority under the interstate compact, he said.
Lukasevich did not comment during their meeting, but deferred questions and explanation to Solicitor Dan Miscavige, who said the suit challenges the commission's authority in taking the action, which takes away state, county and municipality rights to regulate water uses.
The county will pay attorney Gerard Geiger $250 an hour to represent it in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Eastern District.
The commissioners are looking at buying and renting additional property to ease overcrowding at the courthouse and other county buildings and offices.
On Thursday, the commissioners approved a proposal from Andres Appraisals of Palmerton for $2,500 for an appraisal of property at 410 Center Ave. in Jim Thorpe.
The county has been renting space in the building, which is owned by the Jim Thorpe School District, for office space during the 44/76 Susquehanna St. Renovation and Building project.
The county Election Office is among the offices that have been relocated to the school district property on Center Avenue.
Several of the relocated offices should be moving back to the 76 Susquehanna St. building this summer, if renovations remain on track.
The Center Avenue building is one the county is looking at for additional space, as county offices continue to grow, said Commissioner Wayne Nothstein. The county is similarly looking at property on Iron Street in Lehighton, which was eyed for court space, Lukasevich said.
The county is exploring all of its options, which include leasing and buying property to help with overcrowding, he said.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Approved a special activities agreement for the use of the county parking lot for RUNegade Inc. of Phoenixville for a two-day running festival May 22 and 23.
— Accepted a letter of termination from Joseph Butrie of Lansford for snow and ice removal and clearing at the Lansford district court office parking lot and adjacent parking lots effective April 30.
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