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Posted on: June 11, 2021

Bucks-Backed Fracking Ban Survives ‘Political’ Challenge in Federal Court

A view of the Delaware RiverA moratorium banning the environmentally fraught practice of fracking in the Delaware River Basin has been upheld in federal court after a judge dismissed a challenge to the prohibition as a partisan political endeavor. 

U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond issued the ruling Friday, saying the state Senate’s Republican Caucus and municipalities bringing suit failed to demonstrate standing for their legal efforts to overturn the ban put in place by the Delaware River Basin Commission, and backed by the County of Bucks.

“Plaintiffs’ inability to make out standing confirms that this dispute – which is primarily between two political parties – is primarily partisan and is best resolved through the political process,” Diamond wrote.

Plaintiffs in the case claimed the ban on fracking – a process by which a mixture of water, sand or gravel and chemicals is forced into rock to remove oil and natural gas – levied an unfair economic penalty on the state and its residents, and that its imposition was outside of the Delaware River Basin Commission’s authority.

The Delaware River Basin Commission and its fellow defendants contended that the moratorium, in place since 2009, defends against environmental devastation.

Together with a delegation of state senators led by Sen. Steve Santarsiero, both Bucks and Montgomery counties joined the lawsuit in April in support of the Delaware River Basin Commission.

“As a trustee of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, Bucks County stepped forward to protect our constitutional right to clean water,” said county solicitor Joe Khan. “We are glad that Judge Diamond agreed this ‘partisan political’ lawsuit had no business in a courtroom and dismissed the case as a matter of law.”

The judge dismissed the Republican Caucus’s claims with prejudice. Municipalities that joined the suit as plaintiffs will have 20 days to file an amended complaint, otherwise their claims, which were dismissed today without prejudice, will also be dismissed with prejudice.

Read the judge’s full opinion here.

Media Contact: James O'Malley, 215-348-6414, jtomalley@buckscounty.org

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