Wake The Village!

In 2010, The Delaware River was named “The Most Endangered River in America” by AmericanRivers.org due to the threat of pollution posed by fracking for Natural Gas in the Upper Delaware River Watershed.
Unless we learn more about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing – fracking – and start taking action now, people in the Southeastern Pennsylvania will be at far greater risk of developing serious diseases from chemicals in our tap water. It may already contain more pollutants than we realize, including a variety of carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other known toxins. Our drinking water supply is in jeopardy, it’s time to wake the village.
What’s Going On?! In the economically struggling regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the mineral rights to land above the Marcellus Shale are suddenly quite valuable. Farmers and landowners who once stood to literally lose the farm are willing take a gamble and lease the “back fifty” for natural gas drilling. Indeed, Pennsylvania – and the country – needs energy, jobs and independence from foreign oil. Natural gas is widely marketed and perceived as a bridge fuel to carry us over to non-fossil, renewable alternatives. Natural Gas may be a relatively clean fossil fuel to burn, but it’s not a clean fuel to extract from the earth.
Disposing of massive volumes of the highly toxic, radioactive bi-product known as “frack water” has become a major industry dilemma.
It is not economically or logistically feasible for aging municipal water treatment facilities to remove the 200+ chemicals which include carcinogens, neurotoxins and known endocrine disruptors. They end up in our tap water.
How Can This Be Happening? Most people assume we are fully protected by the Clean Air Act (1970) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), but these sound environmental laws were scuttled in 2005 by what has now become known as “The Halliburton Loophole.” A bill proposing to close this loophole, which exempts Natural Gas Drillers, has been introduced in Congress for the third time, yet only the provision that compels companies to disclose the chemicals they gained bipartisan support.
Most people also believe we are protected by the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, the EPA of today is nothing like the government agency founded in 1970. In terms of identifying and regulating environmental hazards, its role has been reduced to narrow tasks such as recommending guidelines for plans to deal with contaminating spills and other emergencies. In fact, the EPA’s funding is at the lowest point since its inception.
The Health of The Commonwealth…
The River – our river – the source of fresh drinking water for the 15 million people living in Philadelphia and the Lower Delaware River region is at risk of irrevocable pollution by Industrial Natural Gas Drilling. Once polluted, an aquifer might need hundreds of years to recover, if it ever does. Citizens in New York State have worked hard with legislators to regulate fracking and protect New York City’s fresh water supply. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and numerous PA environmental groups are fighting to do the same, however, the Delaware River Basin Commission is fast-tracking Draft Gas Regulations with little public review and no hearings scheduled in Philadelphia. Since taking office, Governor Corbett and his appointees appear poised to blanket drillers with permits and let them have at it in Pennsylvania. The Natural Gas Boom has simply drifted over the state line.
With 2,755 frack wells in Pennsylvania, there were 2,486 documented violations in 2010, including illegal discharges into streams and tributaries, explosions, frack water spills and toxic air pollution.

According to Delware Riverkeepers, a recent report said that 44 thousand barrels of wastewater from a Pennsylvania drilling site was discharged into the Neshaminy Creek from a suburban Philadelphia sewage plant in 2009 and 2010.  The Neshaminy Creek is a tributary of the Delaware River. Recycling frack fluid, at first blush, seems like a positive technological advance, but now gas companies have figured out that they can sell salty “frack brine” to the state to spray on our roads as an ice melt ice in the winter. As it is mildly radioactive, it must be particularly effective at melting ice! And in 2011, for the first time ever, $4 million city tax dollars have been included in the city budget for snow removal.
Meanwhile, in the town halls of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the War Memorial in Trenton, all the arguments in favor of fast-tracking Natural Gas Drilling Permits are economic, while all the reasons to maintain the current moratorium and proceed with extreme caution are based in science. Localized water table pollution has been widely documented, and though there are some who debate it, the sheer amount of anecdotal evidence is compelling. The Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya van Rossum, says, “wait until adequate science is completed and reviewed.” The gas will still be there. Landowners don’t want water people legislating what they can do on their land. I’m not sure where they think water comes from, or what they’ve been drinking.
Don’t Frack With Our Tap!
This is not propaganda. This is a chronicle of the information I uncover, and of my journey into becoming a more active citizen on behalf of Pennsylvania’s natural environment. The Delaware River doesn’t have a voice, but there are many people who love it, who truly and deeply care. We can live without Natural Gas but we can’t live without fresh water! So I’m going to shout about this issue from my laptop rooftop. This blog is a resource for people who want to learn more and do more. The safety of our water supply is at serious risk.
It’s time to wake the village.

Keep Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Tap Water Safe – Make your voice heard!
Contact the DRBC, Governor Corbett, and your federal and state legislators to oppose fracking in Pennsylvania, and extend the public comment period scheduled to expire on APRIL 15, 2011.

You can email a letter directly to the Delaware River Basin Commission opposing the draft Gas Regulations by logging on to http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org and clicking “Take Action.”
Governor Tom Corbett
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Phone: (717) 787-2500

Carol Collier, Director
Delaware River Basin Commission
25 State Police Drive
PO Box 7360
West Trenton, NJ    08628

~
February 14, 2011
An unquenchable, decades-old coal fire still burns deep beneath earth in the central part of Pennsylvania, a toxic, hellish remnant of an energy boom past. Three Mile Island prompted the posting of radiation shelter signs in schools, as if a few hours in a freshly painted boiler room would keep children safe. It’s true that natural gas is a fairly low-emission, “cleaner-burning” fossil fuel, though the recent tragedies in San Bruno, California, Allentown and Northeast Philadelphia might suggest otherwise. There are better ways to power a state, and a nation, than fracking. There is no single, easy answer, but we cannot allow the profit motives of large conglomerates to irrevocably poison our region’s water supply.

~

March 22, 2011

Posted on HBO.com…

Yes indeed, Bill! Fracking is a scary, serious environmental issue. New York and New Jersey both have moratoriums, but the gas boom has drifted across the state line to Pa. Fifteen million people rely on the Delaware River Watershed for fresh water, yet thanks to the 2005 Halliburton loophole, and Gov. Corbett and his cronies, the Delaware River Basin Commission – charged with protecting the water – is fast-tracking seriously inadequate regulations. All the arguments in favor are economic; all the reasons not to are based in science… not to mention common sense… Most people are unaware. It’s the same ugly fossil fuel story all over again. Why not have the Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya Van Rossum, on the show??……………..LizR476
~

March 26, 2011
I have been searching for a Rocky Balboa-style rant! I couldn’t understand why Philly is taking this fracking thing lying down. Thank you, Domenic, for speaking out!
SOURCE: dailykos.com

“Our PA Governor does not give a good goddamn about the safety of our drinking water.  He figures he’ll be dead by the time it becomes too deadly.  Nature will fix it.  Or God will.  Let’s place our faith in God and business.
“I should not have to appeal to a jerk whose interests are “political” and lie with and favor his wealthy friends and political cronies.  Let’s not do anything.  Let’s wait until thousands of Pennsylvanians get sick and die of the fracking that pollutes our water supply.  Let’s wait until Gov. Corbett and his family are admitted to the ER.  He’ll not tell a different story then, either. His Republican ideology will not permit that.
“He’ll come up with another dumb reason for why it is O.K. to screw us all to make him and his stupid greedy friends rich and richer.  Richer than God.  Richer than the very God who — if he existed — ought to damn him!
“That’s why this bastard is safe.”
-Domenic Corsaro, Bella Vista, the Italian-Market area, Philadelphia, PA 1914

BTW, also found this response:
Domenic -
Last week, we asked DFA members to tell Gov. Corbett and the rest of the Delaware River Basin Commision (or DRBC) to tell the big oil and gas companies drilling in the region to clean up their act and stop dumping millions of gallons of toxic chemicals and radioactive materials into Pennsylvania’s drinking supply.
Over 7,200 DFA members have already taken action, so we’re setting a new goal – to gather 10,000 signatures!
Can you help us reach that goal by adding your name and a comment to Governor Corbett and the DRBC right now?
In case you missed it, a recent article in The New York Times reported that big oil companies are dumping millions of gallons of waste water into the Delaware River Basin. This waste water is the byproduct of a dangerous drilling method called “fracking” that is happening all over Pennsylvania and the surrounding region.
Worst of all, this waste water contains toxic chemicals and illegal levels of radioactive material – and it’s getting into Pennsylvania’s drinking supply.
Click here to help us get to 10,000 signatures against fracking pollution.
We’ll make sure your signature and your letter are delivered to Gov. Corbett and the rest of the DRBC, which includes the governors of New York, Delaware and New Jersey.
Check out our full email from last week below.
Thanks for everything you do,

-Kaili
Kaili Lambe, Political Campaign Manager, Democracy for America

It’s heartening to know that the issue is being raised, and vociferously! I do believe that fracking is the single largest environmental issue of our era, yet we’re alternately shocked and lulled into complacency. This issue is critical right now. Thank heavens more and more people are getting involved. It can be disheartening to go up against a well-established, moneyed industry, but I would say to Domenic et al.: It’s not the big that eats the small, but the fast the eats the slow!
Tonight is EarthHour, and that’s cool. I’m encouraged. I’m gonna think about what else I can do to green up our home and support the fight for Fresh Water Security.

~

~
April 1, 2011

Alison Rose Levy is a highly acclaimed journalist whose professional aim is to “Connect the Dots” between the environment and societal health issues. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times and HuffPo, and writes her own blog, Health-Journalist.com. After the trifecta disaster in Japan, she expressed (understandably) feeling disheartened, and she asked readers for suggestions on how to fix the multitude of environmental problems facing our planet today.

Dear Ms. Levy:
I know a former heavy drinker. He gave up on AA. He said, “I don’t know if I believe in god, but I do know the difference between right and wrong.” He’s been sober for over twenty years.

One suggestion: TEACH CIVICS IN SCHOOLS
We need future leaders who get it. Kids need to know what’s going on, and how to take civic responsibility, so their actions will be better informed when they are in charge. Most teenagers I know are naturally inclined make strong moral choices, particularly about the environment. Plus, they’re still optimistic! We need to teach them how to work for change.

Another suggestion: CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Until we get money out of the body politic, our food chain will continue to be undermined, our health care will continue to discriminate (up vs. down) and deteriorate in quality, and big industry and energy producers will continue to pollute in the name of a more profitable perceived greater good, thereby justifying their singular focus on the bottom line. They do not care about the rights of individuals, and it’s the same old story with all the fossil fuels (and soon probably water, too). The cross-over among major industry lobbyists and politicians is alarming, yet we accept this as the status quo. Politics is very big business in the US, as if democracy and capitalism are synonymous.

Americans act like children (myself included). We need to grow up, politically speaking, and take responsibility for our land and waters and our health. But clearly there’s no combating the mega-forces of capitalism. So I’m suggesting we look at the fight for a safer, healthier environment more holistically, working within the prevailing social currents, sellin `em on what’s right, sensible, smart and good. The Environment needs to find bigger sponsors.

The simplest suggestion…  MAKE CONSERVATION SEXY!
The most cost efficient alternative, this should be a no-brainer! Make it way more cool (and profitable) to do something pro-environment, and for our collective health and well-being, like volunteering for an environmental cause. Again, we need to rally those energetic youth (and maybe find a way to pay them, too). As a mom of two small-but-growing kids, and a volunteer for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, my sense is we could do a much better job harnessing the vigor and zeal of our nation’s youth and enlisting their support to solve the biggest problems facing our planet.

Sincerely,
Liz R.

Imagine my surprise when I received a personal response! We owe a very real debt to journalists and environmental activists like her who are working hard to secure our basic human right to a healthy, unpolluted planet. I, in turn, am encouraged to redouble my efforts to join the fight for the Special Protection Waters of The Delaware River Watershed.

You can catch Alison Rose Levy on her new radio show “Connect the Dots” on PRN.com on Saturdays at 12p EST.

~

March 28, 2011

Mr. Charles Kopp
Chairman, Delaware River Port Authority
Philadelphia, PA

Dear Mr. Kopp,

Congratulations on your recent appointment to Chairman of the Delaware River Regional Port Authority. Philadelphia is lucky to have leaders like you to move our city’s economic and social objectives forward. I have been following the issue of fracking closely and volunteering for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Recently, I’ve been blogging about the safety of our tap water from a regional and personal perspective at keeptapwatersafe.org. My goal is to inform people about this complex issue, and to work with other environmental action groups to protect and conserve our most precious and necessary resource – fresh water.

No doubt, you’re aware that the Delaware was named “The Most Endangered River in America, 2010” by AmericanRivers.org. With 2,755 frack wells operating in PA, there were 2,486 violations in 2010 including illegal discharges into streams and tributaries, explosions, spills and toxic air pollution. Over a million Pennsylvanians are deeply concerned about the dangers posed by the current “natural gas boom” in the Marcellus Shale region. The majority of the people I speak with, however, are under the false impression that we are fully protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Most are unaware of the 2005 Halliburton Loophole. They do not yet comprehend the scale of the risks involved with under-regulated natural gas drilling and frack-water treatment, recycling and disposal.

Clearly, no one wants to see the drinking water of the 15.6 million people in our region put at risk by pollution. For your information, I have attached a letter to the DRBC which outlines the Delaware Riverkeeper’s specific concerns over the fast-tracking of DRBC’s Draft Gas Regulations.

I’m writing simply to ask you to keep foremost in mind the greater, long-term viability of a clean, healthy port, fed by pristine rivers and streams, graced by natural beauty and wildlife. Please consider the safety of our tap water in all the far-reaching decisions you make. I realize you are charged with a range of weighty and immediate imperatives. Leaders who pause at this critical juncture, and consider the objections of those who fight for the Special Protection Waters of the Upper Delaware, and those who support applicable strategies to strike an appropriate balance between economic and environmental realities, will certainly find themselves on the right side of history. Any strategy that protects The Delaware River will surely have the support of the large and growing contingent of concerned, vocal citizens living downstream!
My Best,
Liz R.
KeepTapWaterSafe.org

~

And a reply:

April 1, 2011

Dear Liz:

Thank you for your letter on the safety of our drinking water. I share your concern and applaud your efforts to do something about it. I am involved with the subject at the Port and also at the state level with the Marcellus Shale development. I’ll let you know if something good happens… I only call if I have good news to report.

All the best, Charles Kopp

~

April 2, 2011

I can’t sleep because of a story that ran on CNN this morning, couched in ads for Natural Gas. Time Magazine writer, Bryan Walsh, was interviewed regarding his current article on the Natural Gas Boom. I noticed, the CNN reporter was following an industry directive to no longer use the term “fracking” as it has negative connotations. I know mainstream (lamestream) media is commericially biased, but I just didn’t understand the nuance of it. Sadly, wiser now, I can’t sleep. In order to forestall a looming government shutdown, President Obama appears ready to sell-out Environmentalists to appease big business conservatives, making us yet another faction of disavowed democrats who helped elect him.

So I  wrote this note to Time Writer, Bryan Walsh…

Dear Mr. Walsh,
It’s the same, ugly fossil fuel story all over again!
With 2,755 frack wells in Pennsylvania, there were 2,486 documented violations in 2010, including illegal discharges into streams and tributaries, explosions, frack water spills and toxic air pollution. A single frack well pulls 4.5 million gallons of fresh water from the aquifer. With over 10,000 permits pending, well, you can do the math. We’ll certainly run out of water long before we run out of gas. Disposing of massive volumes of the highly toxic, radioactive bi-product known as “frack water” has become the major industry dilemma. The 15.6 million people in and around Philadelphia DO NOT want their tap water put at risk, yet Governor Corbett and the DRBC are fast-tracking inadequate regulations BEFORE the science is concluded and reviewed. I can live without natural gas. I cannot live without water.
Are you aware that your article is positioned adjacent to ads from the Natural Gas Industry? It undermines the credibility of your otherwise excellent reporting. But thanks anyway for shining a light on the subject!
Sincerely,
Liz Rosenbaum
KeepTapWaterSafe.org
Don’t Frack With The Delaware River Watershed!
You can find Bryan Walsh’s article at Time.com.
~
April 4, 2011

Letter to the Environmental Defense Fund, which seems to be under the dubious misapprehension that Fracking can be done safely…

April 4, 2011
Mr. Scott Anderson
Senior Policy Advisor
Environmental Defense Fund
Texas Regional Office
44 East Avenue, Suite 304
Austin, TX  78701

Dear Mr. Anderson:

The waste water produced by hydraulic fracturing, which you refer to with the benign industry term “flowback”, is not merely toxic, it’s radioactive. Disposing of the massive volumes of this toxic, carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting “flowback” has become a major industrial dilemma. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, they are dumping it in our rivers and streams. I am a resident, a parent and an environmental blogger, and I don’t want to raise my children in a Disease Cluster.

We need viable solutions, and we need them right now.

Of course, this issue is not limited to pollution. The average frack well pulls nearly 4.5 million gallons of water from our aquifer. We might have hundreds of years’ worth of gas trapped in our shale, but we’ll run out of fresh water long before we burn through it all.

Sir, the source of the drinking water for the 15.6 million people living in Philadelphia and the Lower Delaware Region is at serious risk. What will it take for leaders in America to realize that there is a direct link between our health and pollution in our environment? We can live without Natural Gas, but we cannot survive without fresh water.

I, too, strive for a balanced view. So, if Natural Gas is to be used as a bridge fuel and a panacea for our ailing economy, then pray tell what is the strategy? Better cement jobs? Politically appointed state oversight commissions? It seems like a new chapter in the same old ugly fossil fuel story. I’m just an average citizen who has been following the issue of water safety and security, yet it seems to me that the Gas Industry could do so much more. They could, if properly motivated and advised, write a better ending to the history of fossil fuel extraction in the US.

My humble suggestions for the Gas Industry:

1) Hold themselves to the same level of stringent federal disposal regulations as the nuclear industry. If the life-cycle of fracking and natural gas consumption is so safe, they should at least develop their own rigorous set of industry standards and practices, and hold it up for public review.

2) Commit one dollar towards the development of renewable fuels for every dollar they invest in their fracking operations. Environmental groups would probably be willing to negotiate the price.

3) Develop fracking technology to the fullest extent of its potential, and even solicit public funds to do so. The way fracking is currently practiced, it cannot be done without an unacceptably high risk of air and water pollution. They must satisfy the public demand to account for all of their water usage and the processing, recycling and disposal of all waste and emissions.

4) Collaborate with national consortium of all gas producers to aggregate supply along with knowledge, and to share the burden of ramped up research and technological development costs.

5) Develop larger-scale mega-production “zones” in a limited number of democratically agreed upon counties, with NO drilling in Watershed regions, particularly those supplying drinking water to major population centers, or adjacent to major rivers and drinking water reservoirs.

6) Intensively monitor all site environmental data and regularly furnish ample information to federal and state regulators, the EPA and the public.

7) Use Natural Gas to power an updated and more efficient national electrical grid. Electricity is safer to transport, and more profitable to export, than natural gas.

8) Invest in our national electrical grid, with an aim towards vastly enhancing efficiency and the conversion of natural gas to electricity. In this way, gas companies might develop a more economically viable future wholesale market while being more environmentally responsible at the same time. By evolving their business model to account for valid environmental concerns, they can secure the long-term future of their marketshare. Good business practice, yes?

9) Be a Friend to Pennsylvania. Sponsor Gigantic New Swaths of State Parkland and Special Protection Waters in Pennsylvania, and don’t drill in them.

The biggest question I ponder is: How, exactly, will Natural Gas serve as a bridge fuel?

Are we going to drill in the name of rescuing economically struggling regions of our state, only to render them uninhabitable? With all due respect, we’re not seeing the landscape merely “change,” we’re seeing it destroyed. Nothing that is happening in Harrisburg indicates that being a bridge fuel is the end-goal here, and we cannot allow the profit motives of a handful of large corporations to leave us with a legacy of pollution and disease. Over a million residents in PA share my concerns, and that number is growing every day as this critical issue continues to come to the fore. Please use your influence and connections in the EDF’s “unlikely partnership” with PA Gas Drillers to urge them to take into account, rather than challenge, our very deeply held concerns.

Sincerely,
Liz Rosenbaum
KeepTapWaterSafe.org

Mark Brownstein, Deputy Director, Energy Program, EDF
Elena Craft, Air Quality Specialist, EDF

~

Who Wants To Be A Shallionaire?

Existential angst aside, I’ve been operating in a constant, low-level despair over the future safety of our tap water. The fight to Protect Pennsylvania’s “Special Protection Waters” pits River Friends against some very well-entrenched macro-economic interests. This is heavy-weight domain. What’s more, there is a national level of pressure to leverage NG to rescue us from everything, and the industry is spending millions upon millions to brainwash the populace into thinking it’s a gift from God. Everyone wants way more cash in the state economy, and we certainly need jobs at every level. Currently, PA’s unemployment rate sits around 8.5%, which is down from a 20-year high of 9.7% in February, 2010. Another Frack Fact? I dunno, though I do know that a lot of really smart people are now writing about the economic impacts of fracking in PA.

The Issue of Natural Gas Drilling in the Delaware River Watershed Region is wildly complicated and intellectually challenging. And it’s totally fraught. It hits on so many key elements, and touches so many people. All I really know is, water is basic to our survival, so having it remain 100% organic feels like a basic human right.

I thank heavens for the burgeoning interest in the issue on all sides, because we really do need to “get it right,”  as Senator Bob Casey has stated. All anyone can do is keep learning more and doing more, no matter how alarming we find some of the facts. Most everyone wants to know, what’s in our water? And, how can we protect our ourselves? I’m happy to report, there is a growing number of individuals out there, banding together and doing their thing to fight for this very same cause. The signatures and the voices are adding up. As much as I’d like to retreat to the proverbial cave and drink only coconut milk, the drumbeats are getting louder.

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