Gas Drillers Sweet On Upper Delaware Region, Origin of Lower Merion Drinking Water

Our watershed, in the upper reaches of the Delaware River, is home to the highest concentration of gas drilling sweet spots in the Marcellus Shale. Geologists at Penn State call it “the fairway.” It means drillers have a far greater chance of striking a large, shallow methane deposit. To date, 895 wells have been fracked in Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania, with the heaviest drilling occurring in Bradford, Tioga, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. Drilling closest to Philadelphia is occurring in Lucerne and Columbia counties. Those in denial about the dangers of fracking refer to this part of Pennsylvania as “up there.”

In December 2010, 2,083 permits were pending approval in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since January 2011, the PA DEP has approved 956 permits. A large majority of the new wells are in the Upper Delaware River Watershed Region.

A remarkable pace, indeed! In fact, by their own estimate, PA DEP spends a scant 32 minutes on average deliberating each permit, not a lot of time to access environmental impacts.

According to EarthJustice.org’s “Fraccidents Map”, there were over 1,200 violations in Pennsylvania in 2010. That’s many, many times more accidents than all other states in the US combined.

“Fracksylvania” has become a national joke. It really makes one wonder if the PA DEP’s primary function is regulating drilling operations or issuing permits? PA DEP Secretary Krancer believes that “advances in recycling technology have positioned the industry to wean itself from treatment plants that do river discharges.” [SOURCE: Associated Press, April 24, 2011] So now we’re meant to be weaning gas companies, like babies. Using that analogy, recycling technologies such as Mobile Distillation Units are akin to an artificial teat.

The PA DEP is aware, no doubt, that the Delaware River holds another less obvious, and far more insidious, appeal to industrial gas drillers: It’s a great place to dump their unused “recycled” flowback. Unwittingly poised to purge the gas industry’s sins, the Delaware River and its tributaries are the swiftest and most direct route from the drilling region to the Atlantic Ocean. “Fraccidents” happen, as we can see, and polluted water is quickly carried off and dispersed by the Gulf Stream. Of course, the less obvious, localized environmental and health hazards will take much longer to surface. Even AquaAmerica is shoring up sewage treatment operations and appears willing to accept recycled (basically distilled) flowback at plants operating in Chester, Charlestown, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. Aqua then deposits it back into waterways directly upstream of our drinking water treatment plants. What’s more, it’s likely that we’ll not only receive flowback from our neck of the woods, but from the entire state as well.

It’s the 15.6 million people living in the Lower Delaware Region, in Southeastern PA, who seem to be at greatest risk for potential exposure to large-scale toxic pollution from industrial natural gas drilling. They are also the most unaware. Activists cannot get the word out fast enough. Philadelphia, the “greene Countrie towne” envisioned by William Penn, is not in the eye of the hydrofracking hurricane yet we are squarely in the eddies of its toxic, radioactive landfall. Recycling frack flowback can only help, but it’s not the best answer.

In 2010, Pittsburg passed a largely symbolic law prohibiting fracking within city limits. Buffalo, New York has recently done the same. Yet our Governor, Tom Corbett, wants to drill on Penn State main campus.

What You Can Do:
Don’t panic but do get busy. Whether you send letters old school, or click a few petitions online, our voices add up! The Oil and Gas Industry may have a ginormous ad budget and a multi-tentacled political lobby, but there’s plenty of power in numbers.    Policy makers need to hear from us right now!

#1. Support the FRAC Act [H.R. 2766; S. 1215]
If enacted, the laws drafted in the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act will close the 2005 loophole inserted into the Safe Drinking Water Act [SWDA] and require gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process. The House bill was introduced by representatives Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The Senate version was introduced by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chuck Schummer (D-NY). On March 24, 2011, the FRAC Act was re-introduced in the 112th United States Congress. The Gas Industry currently opposes the legislation.
SOURCE: Wikipedia

# 2. Support the BREATHE Act [H.R.  1204]
Considered a sister bill to the “FRAC Act”, the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects Act would close exemptions in the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) and the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exemption, and it would prompt industry to deploy the best available emissions control technology. This bill was introduced by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Rush Holt (D-NJ).
SOURCE: environmentallawresource.com, written by Jennifer Smokelin of Reed Smith.

#3. In Montgomery County, PA, support bills SB245 & SB246 proposed by State Senator Daylin Leach (D). These pieces of common sense legislation would define increased protection for natural resources such as drinking water and create a moratorium on gas drilling in PA State Forest Lands. Leach sponsored the Growing Greener Act II and the Renewable Portfolio Standards.
SOURCE: Daylin Leach

eActivism
The following groups are leading the charge against toxic water pollution from industrial Gas Drilling. Their websites feature the latest news, information and online petitions:
http://www.earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states
http://www.DelawareRiverkeeper.org
http://www.protectingourwaters.wordpress.com
http://www.cleanwateraction.org/pa
http://www.earthworksaction.org/oil_and_gas.cfm

“Old School” Activism
Copy the letter below and send it to:

Governor Tom Corbett
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Secretary Michael Krancer, PA DEP Southeast Regional Office, Norristown, PA  19401-4915

Senator Pat Toomey
United States Federal Building
228 Walnut Street
Suite 1104
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Senator Bob Casey
22 S. Third Street, Suite 6A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

PA State Senator Daylin Leach
17th District Office
601 South Henderson Road
King of Prussia, PA  19406

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

Dear Sir/Madam:
I have  many  concerns  about  pollution  from  hydraulic  fracturing  for Natural Gas in Pennsylvania,  and I  am  writing  to express my support  of  the  Fracturing  Responsibility  and  Awareness  of   Chemicals  Act  (FRAC  Act)  of  2011  (HR  1084)  in  the  House  and  the  Fracturing  Responsibility  and   Awareness  of  Chemicals  Act  of  2011  (S.  587)  in  the  Senate  to  remove  the  Safe  Drinking  Water   Act  exemption  granted  in  2005  to  this  dangerous  practice  that  threatens  our  clean  drinking   water.

More  than  15  million  people  get  their  drinking  water  from  the  Delaware  River   Watershed  and  we  simply  cannot  sacrifice  our  water  for  gas.  We  cannot  tolerate  our  air  being  fouled  by  gas  extraction;   communities  are  suffering  throughout  gas  drilling  regions,  including  west  of  us  in  Pennsylvania. The  FRAC  Act  would  lift  the  2005  Energy  Policy  Act  exemption  of  fracking  from  the  Safe  Drinking   Water  Act.  In  addition,  it  would  require  oil  and  gas  mining  companies  to  disclose  the  chemicals   used  in  hydraulic  fracturing  operations.

I also  ask  you  to  support  the  Airborne  Toxic  Health  Effects   (BREATHE  Act)  of  2011  (H.R  1204), which would require  drillers  to  adhere  to  the  best  available  technology  standards  in  the  National   Emission  Standards  for  Hazardous  Air  Pollutants  to  reduce  pollution  and  emissions  from  gas   and  oil  drilling.  Gas  extraction  is  a  large  and  diffuse  source  of  harmful  methane  gas  and  other   harmful  vapors  that  are  making  communities  sick  and  our  air  unhealthy. This  act  would  also   close  the  hydrogen  sulfide  (H2S)  exemption  under  the  Clean  Air  Act;  hydrogen  sulfide  is  a   hazardous  air  pollutant  but  is  exempt  when  emitted  from  oil  and  gas  operations.

THANK  YOU  FOR  SUPPORTING CLEAN WATER!

Sincerely,
[Name & Address]

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