By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Delaware River Basin Commission was expected to be asked to take a more active role in decisions about where pipelines go in the region when it met on Wednesday.

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More than 50 environmental groups have signed a formal, legal petition, asking the DRBC to use power it already has — but has never exercised — to regulate pipelines that go through the four-state watershed.

Maya van Rossum, who heads the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, says the time is right because of a big increase in the number of natural gas pipelines under review.

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“We have about 13 new pipeline projects,” she say. “Each of them is a dramatic slash across the landscape, through residential communities and through creeks and the wetlands that are very important to protecting our drinking water supplies.”

van Rossum says DRBC involvement would allow a more scientific, less political permit process.

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A spokesman said it was not clear whether the commission would respond at the meeting. They have a busy agenda, which includes a review of Philadelphia International Airport expansion plans.