Diversity among Pennsylvania’s various Environmental “Stake Holders” is both their greatest strength and most unfortunate weakness. Coordinating their objectives might be the biggest hurdle facing the rapidly expanding, totally grass roots, refreshingly bi-partisan movement to protect The Delaware River Watershed from the singularly focused, heavily lobbied shale gas drilling industry.
Water Action Groups have sprung up across the the state, particularly in Eastern PA, as drillers prepare to tap the ready, pure gas available a mile below the Upper Delaware River Watershed in Northeastern PA. In suburban Philadelphia, an understanding of the issue is still coming to light as more local Democratic representatives like Greg Vitali, Daylin Leach and Mike Gerber take up the environmental cause.
By my estimation, as many as a hundred water action groups are presently working and mobilizing in Pennsylvania, and they run the gamut of our social fabric, from pediatricians to farmers, from river folk to families on vacation, from Methodists to Quakers to Catholic Nuns. Some groups are decades old, re-purposing their objectives to meet the new threats and challenges posed by a booming shale gas extraction industry. Some tackle legal issues. Others are more frack-focused and newer to the scene.
Lately, more groups who are concerned about fracking pollution, and the dearth of scientific study, are popping up like phragmites along the Delaware. While their objectives, and even their methods, might be divergent at times, they all share the same basic mission: To protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources, particularly its air, land, wildlife and water.
The risk to our world class fresh water aquifer water has remained the seminal issue, as it literally flows through all the others, yet Air Quality and Emissions are quickly coming to the fore. Air pollution issues tend to trend more heavily among faith-based environmental groups. Issues like Land Fragmentation, State Forest Protection, Property Rights, Game Lands Protection as well as Species Decline are also vying for position on the stage of this crucial debate.
Mischaracterizing, even vilifying, environmental groups in Pennsylvania is nothing new. While Corbett administration officials have consistently characterized PA environmental action groups as ultra-left, it was during Democratic Governor Ed Rendell’s administration that the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security notified its staff to be on alert for “environmental activists and militants,” spawning rumors of possible eco-terrorist activities in the state though none have ever been reported.
Last winter, a Corbett appointee, Teddy Borawski, the chief oil and gas geologist for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), while serving in an official capacity and speaking on the record at a luncheon, compared the Sundance award-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary film Gasland to Nazi propaganda stating, “Joseph Goebbels would have been proud. He would have given [Josh Fox] the Nazi award. That, in my opinion, was a beautiful piece of propaganda.” Mr. Borawski later offered his apology for his remarks, but not his resignation. SOURCE: Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, March 18, 2011
This kind of mean-spirited nonsense seems intended to splinter moderate fracking opponents from their more impacted and impassioned brethren by engendering mistrust of the supposed “radicals.” Thankfully, the Delaware River’s proponents are, by and large, factual and persistent people disinclined to buy into industry or government hype.
To the not-so-far left, groups such as Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Protecting Our Waters and Berks Gas Truth, to name but a few, are rallying for a moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracking until more studies about the long term impacts are concluded and reviewed. New York State – that Democratic lefty stronghold – already has such a moratorium in place, but it’s only temporary. (Also, they currently receive a large percentage of Pennsylvania’s frack waste.) New York has a larger and more established network of water action groups compared to Pennsylvania. As far as I can tell, in Pennsylvania, calls for a drilling moratorium in the Upper Delaware are about as radical as it gets.
Some of the academically-propelled groups have testified before state panels on Marcellus Shale Gas development, and a few, like the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), have recently issued their own set of recommended changes to the PA Oil and Gas Code.
Others groups, such as the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and AmericanRivers.org, would like to see a permanent moratorium on drilling in watershed regions. And some, such as PennFuture, want to see strong environmental accountability in the form of vigorously enforced environmental laws, and the deployment of best available technologies in frack waste handling and treatment.
Most organizations, but not all, want the gas industry to pick up the tab, and then some, in the form of a bona fide, statewide, General Fund-building, Gas Tax. To sign a petition in support of the Vitali Plan, go to: pennfuture.org
Many environmental groups, again not all, want to see funding to the Department of Environmental Protection restored rather than cut in the PA Budget which is currently under deliberation in the legislature, and slated to be hammered out in the next few weeks.
Recently, a colleague expressed the disheartened sense that water activists in Pennsylvania are losing time in the race to regulate. The fracking debate has proven to be a fast-moving, multi-tiered target with strong feelings on all sides. Patriotism is only theme common to both pro- and anti-drilling activists.
Getting It Together
The good news: As surely as the river flows into the bay, water activists in Pennsylvania are coming together. On September 7th & 8th in Philadelphia, Protecting Our Waters is organizing a broad-based coalition called “Shale Gas Outrage” to confront the poisonous gas industry and further build the clean water movement. This series of events is scheduled to collide with the upcoming Marcellus Shale Coalition industry trade show. It’s gonna be big. For more information, go to: shalegasoutrage.org
The Southeastern PA Environmental “Stake-Holders” List
Below is a partial listing of Water Action Groups working to protect the Delaware River Watershed region for present and future generations. I recommend visiting their sites to learn more about fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, and to take immediate action on behalf of your municipal fresh water security. Now is a critical time to get involved as legislators are currently considering their votes on several important measures.
We’re pleased to update your group’s listing if you see it here, or to add it to the alphabetical list if you don’t.
“American Rivers is the leading conservation organization standing up for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores the nation’s rivers and the clean water that sustains people, wildlife, and nature. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters, with offices in Washington, DC and nationwide. Through our work in five key program areas – Rivers and Global Warming, River Restoration, River Protection, Clean Water and Water Supply – American Rivers is working to protect our remaining natural heritage, undo the damage of the past and create a healthy future for our rivers and future generations.”
Named the Delaware River the Most Endangered River of 201o, and the Susquehanna River the Most Endangered River of 2011.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) mission is to Save the Bay, and keep it saved, as defined by reaching a 70 on CBF’s Health Index.
Our vision is that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers, broadly recognized as a national treasure, will be highly productive and in good health as measured by established water quality standards. The result will be clear water, free of impacts from toxic contaminants, and with healthy oxygen levels. Natural filters on both the land and in the water will provide resilience to the entire Chesapeake Bay system and serve as valuable habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic life.”
Position on Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling:
“As energy companies across the nation position themselves to tap into our country’s natural gas reserves, many residents and environmentalists are concerned about the potential problems associated with extracting this valuable resource. No one disputes the need for local clean, efficient energy resources. But there are concerns over the land and water impacts drilling may cause.”
CBF has petitioned the US Energy policy makers for a cumulative impacts analysis to determine the effects that drilling in the Marcellus Shale region has on human health and the environment throughout the Chesapeake Bay states including, but not limited to, impacts to the air, water quality, forest land, national park land, wildlife habitat and ecosystems.
Clean Water Action
“Clean Water Action is an organization of almost one million members working to empower people to take action to protect America’s waters, build healthy communities and to make democracy work for all of us. For 36 years Clean Water Action has succeeded in winning some of the nation’s most important environmental protections through grassroots organizing, expert policy research and political advocacy focused on holding elected officials accountable to the public.”
Clean Water Action conducts a series of state-specific Online Actions. Click on Pennsylvania to sign and share current petitions.
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
“Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is collaborating with universities, national, regional, and local organizations, business and community leaders, elected officials, farmers, artists, and citizens to preserve and protect clean air, land, and pure water as a civil right, and basic human right. Damascus Citizens team of experts and lawyers are presently engaged in several critical lawsuits and hearings within the Upper Delaware River and Watershed – the #1 ‘Most Endangered River in America.’ ”
On Protecting in the Upper Delaware River Watershed:
“The Upper Delaware River Watershed Basin – the source of pure-water for 17 million people. After meetings with the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) and NY Department of Environmental Conservation (NY-DEC) – experts have calculated that over 20,000 wells will be drilled in the Upper Delaware River Watershed Basin. ONE well requires 5 to 9 million gallons of water in the initial drilling, and up to that much each time the well undergoes the hydraulic-fracturing process used to access the gas. This water is allowed to be taken from our streams, lakes, rivers, and aquifers. It is left polluted by the chemicals used in the drilling and fracturing. Some of this water leaches into the drinking water aquifers and surface waters. We are working hard to prevent the dire effects of gas drilling – in the Upper Delaware Watershed. Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil, Cabot, Chesapeake, Stone, Hess and their foreign partners have begun deployment within the Watershed region.”
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
“Established in 1988, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is a nonprofit membership organization. DRN’s staff and volunteers work throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed including portions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. They share a breadth of knowledge about the environment as well as expertise specific to rivers and watersheds. DRN provides effective environmental advocacy, volunteer monitoring programs, stream restoration projects and public education. In addition, DRN goes to court when necessary to ensure enforcement of environmental safety laws.”
Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya K. van Rossum on Watershed Protection:
“The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is the only citizen action organization operating throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed, which includes the Catskill Mountains of NY, Western NJ, Eastern PA, and nearly all of DE, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. The Delaware Riverkeeper is an individual who is the voice of the River, championing the rights of the River and its streams as members of our community which must be given priority consideration — after all, without them we do not exist. The Delaware Riverkeeper is assisted by seasoned professionals and a network of members, volunteers and supporters. Together they form DRN, and together they stand as vigilant protectors and defenders of the River, its tributaries and watershed. DRN is committed to restoring the watershed’s natural balance where it has been lost and ensuring its preservation where it still exists.” SOURCE: delawarerivervoice.blogspot.com
Opposing Senate Bill 1100
“We need Pennsylvania residents to speak out and urge their elected officals to vote NO on Senate Bill 1100 introduced by Senate President Joe Scarnati should it come to the House or Senate floor. We oppose SB1100 because it would trade the rights of citizens and local governments for drilling fees and taxes. A democratic society supports local decision-making. Pennsylvania’s citizens must be able to have input into the laws and practices that affect them and municipal officials must be able to represent their constituents.”
The DRN is a touchstone resource for many water advocacy groups. DRN volunteers are also working to support the FRAC Act, which would remove the gas and oil industry’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the BREATHE Act in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in this legislative session.
“From day one, Earthjustice has used the law to even the odds against powerful special interests and to hold accountable those who jeopardize the health of the planet. We concentrate our work in three strategic areas: preserving our natural heritage, promoting a clean energy future, and safeguarding our health.”
Works within the legal system to ensure our right to clean land, air and water. Created excellent Fracking informational cartoon, entitled Things Find a Way, which received 34,262 views on YouTube, and and the ever-frightful and sobering Fraccidents Map. If you want to be freaked out, you gotta check it out at http://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states
Earthworks – The Oil and Gas Accountability Project
“OGAP is the only program in the United States with the sole mission of working with tribal, urban and rural communities to protect their homes and the environment from the devastating impacts of oil and gas development. OGAP builds coalitions among economically, racially and politically diverse constituencies. OGAP coordinates two main program areas: Public Health and Toxics, and Regulatory and Governmental Reform.”
Government and Regulatory Reform of Fracking is one of the larger issues in their environmental mix. They are seeking Best Practices, Progressive Oil and Gas Regulations and Governmental and Regulatory reform at the municipal, county, state and federal level.
Food and Water Watch
“Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control. We envision a world where all people have access to enough affordable, healthy, and wholesome food and clean water to meet their basic needs — a world in which governments are accountable to their citizens and manage essential resources sustainably.”
FWW is committed to banning fracking in New York and the mid-Atlantic region. Their website is a useful to activists, with news, ongoing online petitions, action tools and resources. The organization fosters home-grown environmental stewardship.
Gas Truth is a network of grassroots citizens’ groups fighting unsafe natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. We have established chapters in the Lehigh Valley, Berks County, and Central Pennsylvania. Natural gas drilling of the Marcellus Shale threatens Pennsylvania’s natural resources, the health of its citizens, and its scenic beauty. Gas Truth is a network of grassroots citizens’ groups fighting to bring an end to unsafe drilling practices in Pennsylvania.
On the Gas Truth site, you’ll find news and information on the many issues surrounding natural gas drilling, plus chapter-specific information, an events calendar, and suggestions for actions to take.
PA Campaign for Clean Water
“Formed in 2002, the Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water is a coalition of over 140 environmental, conservation, sporting, and religious groups from all corners of the state that speaks in one voice in support of federal and state policies to protect and restore PA’s water resources. Our goals are: Keeping clean waters clean and restoring damaged waterways; Easy public access to information and participation in decision-making; Comprehensive water resource management policies; Firm, fair, and consistent enforcement of laws protecting our water resources.”
Working actively to oppose fracking in the Delaware River Watershed, the PA Campaign for Clean Water recently coordinated with other environmental actions groups statewide to stage the largest anti-fracking rally yet in Harrisburg on June 7, 2011.
“PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. Our professional staff combines independent research, practical ideas and tough-minded advocacy to overcome the opposition of powerful special interests and win real results for Pennsylvania’s environment. PennEnvironment draws on 30 years of success in tackling our state’s top environmental problems.”
On June 6, 2011, after more than four years of litigation, PennEnvironment, the Sierra Club, and several of their local members have succeeded in imposing the largest penalty in Pennsylvania history against a water polluter under the federal Clean Water Act’s citizen enforcement provision. SOURCE: pennenvironment.org/newsroom
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
“The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) protects and restores the natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education and advocacy. PEC believes in the value of partnerships with the private sector, government, communities and individuals to improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.”
Earlier this week, PEC launched MarcellusFacts.org to “make it easy to stay informed.” Indeed the website is a goldmine of information. Says PEC president Paul M. King: “Our goal in creating MarcellusFacts is to simplify the challenge of being well-informed on this issue and to make the people of Pennsylvania better participants in the public process of Marcellus Shale development.” SOURCE: http://www.pecpa.org/release/pec-announces-new-marcellus-shale-website
“Natural gas has many potential environmental and public health benefits. But drilling for gas deep in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations is an intensely industrial, inherently hazardous activity that threatens water, air, and land resources and public safety if the proper regulations, with vigilant oversight, aren’t in place.”
PennFuture has posted a live PA Drilling Tax Delay Cost Tabulator on their site, and it was rounding $189,867, 792 when I visited. They are strong proponents of a statewide drilling tax, and they recently sponsored a speaking tour across Pennsylvania called “The Fair Share Tour” to support the Vitali Gas Tax measure. President, Jan Jarrett has testified on the subject before numerous state panels and committee meetings.
Protecting Our Waters
“Protecting Our Waters is a Philadelphia-based grassroots alliance committed to protecting the Delaware River Basin, the state of Pennsylvania, and our region from unconventional gas drilling and other threats to our drinking water, environment, and public health.”
This Philadelphia-based activist group maintains a wildly informative blog about fracking, and sponsors and publicizes events, demonstrations and artful street performances designed to spread the message that fracking should be banned. Last Spring, POW organized the River to River March, and on June 7, 2011, they joined other action groups to organize hundreds of water activists to flood to the rotunda in the state house. It became the largest environmental demonstration in Pennsylvania to date. POW is currently organizing the next big protest in Philadelphia on September 7th & 8th to coincide and collide with the upcoming Marcellus Shale Coalition’s gas industry trade show.
Additional PA Organizations:
Audubon Society of PA: pa.audubon.org
Save Our State Forests in PA: sosinpa.org
Sierra Club of PA: pennsylvania.sierraclub.org
News Agencies & Information Aggregators:
Fractracker : Fractracker.org
The Harrisburg Patriot: PennLive.com
The Legal Intelligencer, The Marcellus Shale Play Series: law.com
PA Environmental Council: MarcellusFacts.org
PA Environment Digest Daily Blog: paenvironmentdaily.blogspot.com
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette: pipelinepg.tumblr.com
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension: extension.psu.edu/naturalgas
Wilkes University: energy.wilkes.edu
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research for Northeastern Pennsylvania is a consortium comprised of four partners: Wilkes University, King’s College, Earth Conservancy and the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development