Pro-drillers hopeful about new DRBC head

Steven J. Tambini, former water company executive, will replace longtime director Carol Collier


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  • Steven Tambini



Steven Tambini

Currently:
Board of Directors, Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin
Board of Directors, the National Association of Water Companies–Pennsylvania Section
Board of Directors, The Rancocas Conservancy
Previously:
Board of Trustees, American Water Works Association–New Jersey Section
Chair, American Water Works Association–NJ Water Utility Council (responsible for legislative and policy issues related to water)
Member, New Jersey Governor’s Water Supply Advisory Council, where Tambini represented the water industry and worked with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection on numerous water supply and water resource initiatives, including the development of the Water Supply Master Plan.
Background:
Bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y.
Master of science degree in environmental engineering, Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y.
Registered professional engineer in New Jersey and New York

— The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has appointed a former water company executive as its new executive director, a choice welcomed by natural gas drilling supporters critical of the outgoing director.

Steven J. Tambini will start his new job on Aug. 1, 2014.

The DRBC is a federal, interstate agency responsible for managing the water resources of the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin. It has been at the center of a fierce struggle over hydrofracking, a controversial deep-drilling method that extracts natural gas from the Marcellus shale by pumping millions of gallons of chemical-laden water deep into the rock. Those who support hydrofracking point to the royalties private landowners can make from leasing their land to gas drillers. Opponents of hydrofracking say the process endangers precious water resources.

Commission Chair Pro Tem Michele Siekerka, who represents New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said Tambini's background is "sure to be of great benefit to the ongoing work of the commission."

Tambini succeeds Carol R. Collier, who will retire in August after 15 years as executive director.

“Carol Collier has been a dedicated advocate for the protection of the natural resources and potable water supply in the Delaware River Basin,” Siekerka said. “Her dedication and leadership at DRBC will be greatly missed.”

Hope and suspicion
Marcellus Drilling News (marcellusdrilling.com), a site devoted to "helping people and businesses profit from Northeast shale drilling," said Collier's resignation marks the "end of an ignominious era" of stonewalling: "It’s now goodbye and good riddance."

It expressed optimism about Tambini: "Steve has been a water guy for over 30 years with lots of experience in water supply engineering and water resource planning. He will take over on Aug. 1. Until then, Steve is not saying much. The Marcellus Shale Coalition says they’re looking forward to working with Tambini to craft common sense regulations that will allow shale drilling in places like Wayne County, PA."

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, said she is reserving judgment on Tambini. She said she knows nothing about him except what she's read in news reports.

"Whoever he is, it is important that the next person to head the DRBC take seriously their obligations under the Compact to protect the Delaware River to the benefit of residents," without being in thrall to any particular organization or political viewpoint, she said.

Van Rossum said she respected Collier, who took her obligation to protecting the river "very seriously."

She said that while she and Collier disagreed on some things, "I don't believe she was bought of by any organization or political perspective."

Tom Shepstone, a pro-fracking activist who also serves as planning consultant for Dingman Township, has blamed Collier for "inexcusable delays" on pro-drilling sites like Energy in Depth (energyindepth.org), launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and Natural Gas Now (naturalgasnow.com), launched by Shepstone to "secure the adoption of regulations by the Delaware River Basin Commission governing natural gas development."

The anti-fracking site Keep Tap Water Safe (keeptapwatersafe.org), devoted to "concerned, environmentally-minded citizens of Southeastern Pennsylvania," says about Tambini's appointment: "I want to have faith, really, but Tambini’s resume is pretty thin on conservation, and darn heavy on extending private water industry interests. One can’t help but worry that he will be inclined to keep on carrying water for the water industry."

The five commission members are the governors of the basin states — Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware — and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

The DRBC said it conducted a national search for a new executive director after Collier announced her retirement plans in September.

Chief Administrative Officer Richard C. Gore will serve as acting executive director until Tambini assumes his new duties.

Tambini, 54, will be only the fourth executive director in the DRBC’s 53-year history. Collier was appointed in 1998. Preceding them were Gerald M. Hansler, appointed in 1977, and James F. Wright, appointed in 1962.

A difference in backgrounds
Collier, who has been executive director since 1998, is recognized for her work to protect the nation’s water resources, and believes proper management of water resources is the key to our economic and environmental future, according to the DRBC. She has participated in water management and sustainable forest practice events along the Yangtze River in China and in the rain forests of Ecuador, which involved building sustainable communities.

Prior to joining the DRBS, Collier was head of Pennsylvania’s 21st Century Environment Commission and regional director of the state’s department of Environmental Protection. She is a senior certified ecologist and teaches environmental management courses at the University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater, and has published on environmental and water-related topics.

Tambini is a native of New York and a long-time resident of Burlington County, N.J. He has more than 30 years of experience in water supply engineering and water resource planning, management and operations. He served as vice president of operations at Pennsylvania American Water and held important leadership posts at New Jersey American Water.

He played a key role in developing New Jersey American’s Delaware River Regional Water Treatment plant and Tri-County Water Supply, which provides water to New Jersey communities in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties. He has also provided engineering leadership to American Water subsidiaries serving 12 other states

"Mr. Tambini’s work on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River has allowed him to develop and build relationships with regulators and stakeholders throughout the basin," said Commission Chair Pro Tem Michele Siekerka in announcing his appointment.

For more about Tambini, please see related article.

Online
Delaware River Basin Commission: drbc.net

Delaware Riverkeeper Network: delawareriverkeeper.org

Natural Gas Now: naturalgasnow.com

Energy in Depth: energyindepth.org

Keep Tap Water Safe: keeptapwatersafe.org

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