DRBC Sitting on $30 Million of Cash and Investments

Constitution Pipeline - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The latest DRBC audit shows this government agency is setting on roughly $30 million of cash and investments, even while it begs for money from taxpayers.

Nobody was more pleased than me when Pennsylvania opted recently to cut its DRBC contribution to $217,000 but it should forever be cut to zero next time. Why? Because the agency is sitting on roughly $30 million of cash and investments from business profits from its reservoir operations. Moreover, over $19 million of that consists of unrestricted funds. The DRBC has all the resources it needs without any help from Pennsylvania.


Beltzville Reservoir – what a DRBC project really looks like.

The FY 2016 (ending June 30, 2016) audit of the Delaware River Basin Commission, found here, includes some eye-opening data on page 10. It shows the DRBC had, at the end of FY 2016, cash of $5,386,692 and investments (not including capital assets) of $24,490,573 for a total of nearly $30 million in generally liquid funds. It had total assets of $37,159,376 with total liabilities of $23,015,882 which, after adjustments, leaves a net financial position of $14,400,584, which is more than offset by unrestricted funds in the bank, so to speak. They total $19,349,722, meaning the DRBC has plenty of money available to use however it wishes. It needs none from Pennsylvania or the Feds.


Yet, the DRBC would have us believe it desperately needs Pennsylvania and other members to contribute more. The agency has repeatedly engaged in political campaigns to lobby for more money, in fact. Back in 2013, Carol Collier was making impassioned pleas for money for the DRBC even using the excuse that she needed it to study gas drilling, despite the fact the William Penn Foundation, funder of the Riverkeeper suing the DRBC, was also funding the agency for that very purpose. Now, she admits she never really wanted the regulations anyway but, rather, a ban; this after getting a sweetheart retirement job at the Foundation dependent Academy of Natural Science:

Will New Jerseyans’ taps run dry if there’s a severe drought brought on by climate change? Will freshwater intakes be flooded with salt water if rising sea levels coincide with declining flow in the Delaware River? Would natural gas drilling contaminate groundwater if it’s allowed in the river basin?

The interstate agency that oversees water quality and supply for some 15 million people in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware doesn’t know the answer to those questions because it says it doesn’t have the funding to find out.

Without federal funds, the Delaware River Basin Commission can’t afford to investigate those and other major questions. It’s now renewing its efforts to get that funding restored…

More recently, a cut in state funding has exacerbated the DRBC’s cash crunch. New York is paying only 39 percent of its agreed dues this year, while New Jersey lopped $200,000 off its scheduled payment, citing budget strictures…

While its current $5.6 million budget allows the Trenton-based agency to do routine work like permitting and regulatory review, the money isn’t enough to fund long-term projects such as determining whether the region’s water supply is vulnerable to sea-level rise, climate change, or the next Sandy-class storm.

“I don’t have any dollars to do special studies like that,” Collier told NJ Spotlight. “We have not been able to do the work that we should have in place to be resilient to those extreme conditions.”

Restored funding would allow her, for example, to hire scientists to study whether Philadelphia’s freshwater intakes on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers would be flooded with seawater if a severe drought coincided with rising sea levels.

…If she had the money, Collier said she would hire scientists to study whether the basin could control floods and sustain drinking water supply in the event of another major storm like Sandy. The agency’s staffing shrank to 39 from 46 in the early 2000s.

“Are we prepared for that or not?” she said. “We don’t have the models in place. We have not been able to do some of the flood mitigation that has been recommended by some of the different flood advisory committees.”

The funding shortfall has also prevented DRBC from studying the impact of possible natural gas drilling in the basin, amid claims by anti-fracking groups that drilling would leak toxic chemicals into aquifers that supply water to millions of people.

What a line of nonsense that really was, is now well apparent in retrospect. The same cries for more money came in 2015 from a group of organizations, many funded by the William Penn Foundation, lobbied in the press for it. Then, in 2016, Steve Tambini successfully argued the agency needed to upgrade its fees and water supply charges, claiming the agency must have “stable, sustainable and right-sized funding.” That’s code word for money to build an empire funded with business revenue but possessing government authority. Tambini is on a mission to make the DRBC a self-perpetuating tyranny and has now surrendered to the ideological forces that would politically power the power seeking.

Tambini also put out an 11-page FAQ on the then proposed new fees and water supply charges, which includes this deceptive question and answer:

What will happen if these fee increases are not approved?

Just like any person, family, business, or organization, the DRBC cannot run a budget deficit year after year. For the past several years, DRBC has used equity (or “money in the bank in reserve”) to meet expenses. This is not a sustainable path forward and cannot be maintained for the longer term without significant consequences related to the commission scope of operations and/or financial position.

Notice the “money in the bank reserve” language. It is as deceptive as it gets. The DRBC audit shows the bulk of the money ($14.4 million of it) in the DRBC’s net position is unrestricted and the notion that it’s reserved for anything is a falsehood. Could the agency need money down the road to fund improvements to its water projects (e.g., the Beltzville Reservoir)? That’s possible but those, of course, can be funded the same way the original projects were funded. The idea the unrestricted funds should not be used for operating expenses is wildly misleading at best. That’s the reason for the mealy-mouthed weaselly language in the FAQ.

The bottom line is that the DRBC wants more money, not to do what it was created to do—water projects—but, rather, to review, regulate and ban things without touching its business income kitty. It would rather get that money from the governments who formed the Delaware River Compact but, given the recent resolution of its intent to expand its mission into becoming a super land use agency, there’s simply no reason for Pennsylvania or the Feds to participate. By participating they are legitimizing the agency’s power grab. Better to starve it of governmental funds and let it become the business it wants to be without giving it more street credibility as a regulator. Let’s have some hearings on this and soon! And, not one more dime of public funding from Pennsylvania or the Feds!

The post DRBC Sitting on $30 Million of Cash and Investments appeared first on Natural Gas Now.

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