Faklempt Over Fracking in the Poconos: Jewish Overnight Camps Sign Leases

When I first read Josh Nathan-Kazis’ July 13 article in The Jewish Daily Forward, entitled Fracking Comes to Jewish Summer Camp, I was appalled that any children’s camp, or school or university, would lease their land for money, and expose children in our state to the horrible pollution associated with hydrofracking. Yet the Wayne Country property, home of the B’nai B’rith Perlman camp, is not the only one. About ten Jewish Camps, including the New Jersey Y, have already signed leases or entered negotiations with companies like Hess and Chesapeake.

It didn’t take long for the Comments column to get buzzing. The readers’ reactions ranged from Concerned Camper’s nostalgia: “I have fond memories of swimming in the lake on shabbat mornings” to Donna Fellenberg’s admonishment:”It’s a shonda! You should be very ashamed of yourselves,” and her suggestion that camp owners visit Dimock, PA or Dish, TX. Irvin Mermelstein wrote pragmatically: “I am surprised their liability insurers are not more concerned.” Offering her circumspect point-of view, Mirele Goldsmith commented: “We should be objecting to dirty, dangerous fossil fuel extraction everywhere it takes place.” And, Anti-fracking mom (you go girl!) was adamant: “The best summer of my life, and I am sad it will not be an option for my own children- I will not have them attend camp there if this goes through.”

Naturally, I had to put in my two cents. I replied to Steve Rosenbach, who trotted out the worn-at-the-knees assertion that “Hydraulic fracturing has been around for over 60 years… Even the current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, stipulated during congressional testimony that there are no ‘proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water.’”

I replied:
Steve, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has also said on many occasions that fracking needs more study. In fact, the EPA is currently conducting studies on groundwater and air contamination in Bradford, Susquehanna and Washington counties. It’s a shame that the camp couldn’t wait until the science is completed before signing their lease. As a country, we clearly need this energy source, yet our kids need fresh air and clean water to grow. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to this kind of toxic pollution……….Liz Rosenbaum, KeepTapWaterSafe.org

And, cuz I was on a tear:
Also, Steve, respectfully, while fracturing shale for gas has been done for more than 50 years, horizontal slick water hydraulic fracturing is relatively new technology. Fracking in the Upper Delaware is also proving to be uniquely tricky because of shallow thermogenic methane deposits. It sounds like they had good guidance, but I hope the camp included baseline water testing in their lease agreement as these can be expensive!

Then, Irvin, said:
Keeptap–Is nitrogen fracking an option in this type of drilling?

I thought about his question. Loved my new monicker, but I had no idea. Could I point him in the right direction? I replied:

I don’t know, Irvin, but you’ll find a lot of technical information on the PA Department of Environmental Protection website: www.depweb.state.pa.us

But I felt bad because I’ve spent a lot of time on the DEP website. It’s a fascinating maze, simultaneously cumbersome with detail and generally uninformative. And lately, it’s less of an environmental database and more of a drillers’ services portal. In fact, last week, when the DEP network unexpectedly crashed, work in the agency reportedly came to a screeching halt. I suppose even rubber stamps are digital these days? If they wanted to, the DEP could post a lot more information online, such as the contents of frack fluid used in Pennsylvania. Sunshine is the best antiseptic, yes? And I felt bad because, even if Irvin doesn’t know it, I’m well aware that the DEP, the agency that is called to protect Pennsylvanians from dangerous pollution, is the same agency that’s determined to “get gas done,” the same agency that’s currently bucking “interference” from the EPA and the multi-state Delaware River Basin Commission. And, lately, I’m afraid the DEP website has been echoing imagery and sentiments furnished by the wealthy industry lobby group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition. To me, when tax-payer dollars are deployed to toe the party line for a single, highly-polluting and controversial private industry, now that’s a shonda, a terrible shame.

Finally, after a few hours of furor, Rabbi Arthur Waskow commented thoughtfully. His words:

The Shalom Center views it as a profound violation of Jewish wisdom and values for summer camps or other Jewish institutions to sell the rights to use their land in ways that will poison God’s and humanity’s earth, air, food, and water. See below for actions you can take to halt this.

On September 7-8, the national commercial association of companies that are fracking shale rock regions will gather for a national convention in Philadelphia.

So environmental organizations are planning to face the “Fracking Association” with major demonstrations on September 7-8. The goal is at least 2500 demonstrators, with a rally, a march, a counter-conference, a “Blessing of the Waters,” and a free outdoor concert. The Shalom Center is taking the lead in bringing together an interfaith planning committee to put together a “Blessing of the Waters” as part of the Sept 7-8 arrangements.

We invite religious folk, clergy and lay, who want to take part in these events to get in touch with us by writing me at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org with “Interfaith Blessing Waters” in the subject line.

What you can do to stop fracking:

• Call your child’s summer camp to urge they NOT OK any leases or plans that might allow fracking.

• Call B’nai Brith/ BBYO at 202/857-6580 for Matther Grossman (Exec Dir) and YM-YWHA / Jewish Community Centers Assn at 212/ 532-4949 for Allan Finkelstein (CEO) and urge them to cancel the fracking leases of their summer camps.

• Sign a petition for a national ban on fracking at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/fracking/f…

• If you live in NYS, call Gov Cuomo at 518/ 474-8390 and tell him to ban fracking throughout New York State. In Pennsylvania, call Gov. Corbett at 717/ 787-2500 with the same demand.

• Call your members of Congress and tell them to pass the FRAC Act to repeal the “Cheney-Halliburton” exemption for hydrofracking from environmental laws.

• Show the documentary film Gasland in your community. It documents the dangers of fracking. To get a DVD copy, click here. http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/

Prepare to use Shabbat Noach, October 28-29, when Jews read the biblical story of the Flood, the Ark, and the Rainbow, as a time to address fracking and other threats to our planet, and act to heal our Earth in the spirit of the Rainbow.
Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow

SOURCE: The Jewish Daily Forward

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2 Responses to “Faklempt Over Fracking in the Poconos: Jewish Overnight Camps Sign Leases”

  1. Fracking: Another Bad Word Your Kid Picked Up at Camp? « Keep Tap Water Safe Says:

    […] Faklempt Over Fracking A few weeks ago, I read an article by Josh Nathan-Kazis in The Jewish Daily Forward about the B’nai B’rith Perlman Starlight camp, in Wayne Country, PA. As part of a larger community-based landowner group, they had negotiated and signed a gas drilling lease with Hess. “It’s a shonda!” commented Donna Fellenberg. Anti-fracking Mom wrote, “The best summer of my life, and I am sad it will not be an option for my own children – I will not have them attend camp there…” I “liked” that one, and made the suggestion that since children and the elderly are most vulnerable to the local impacts of fracking, perhaps camp owners should obtain baseline water and air testing prior to drilling activity. Impassioned comments poured in long after mine. Never really a camper myself, I quickly understood that people can be pretty attached to their cherished camp memories. The maelstrom of reactions culminated with a few reasonable thoughts, and a kindly call to action, from Rabbi Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, which I posted about on July 25. […]

  2. Liz Rosenbaum Says:



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