A Philadelphia federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by two Pennsylvania Republican state senators and four state municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region to overturn a permanent ban on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the 13,539-sq-mile Delaware River watershed. 

The watershed includes all or part of 17 Pennsylvania counties, seven of which are entirely or partly over the Marcellus Shale formation.

The ban covering areas in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and New Jersey was enacted in February by the Delaware River Basin Commission, a regional river watershed management agency. It made permanent a moratorium in place since 2010.

The suit claimed the commission did not have authority to ban fracking, something only a state legislature could do. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking by executive order in 2015, which the legislature codified last year. Delaware and New Jersey are not natural gas producers.

Plaintiffs also claimed the ban was an unconstitutional taking of property from Pennsylvania mineral rights owners and taxing authorities.

US District Court Judge Paul Diamond said in his June 11 ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, although he allowed the municipalities to file an amended challenge by July 1.

He said that the dispute “is primarily partisan and is best resolved through the political process.”

When the ban was enacted, Delaware Gov. John Carney said the action would "provide the fullest protection to the more than 13 million people who rely upon the Delaware River Basin's waters for their drinking water."

But Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan said the action defied "common sense, sound science, and is a grave blow to constitutionally protected private property rights."