Dredging Up The Past

The Delaware River Basin didn’t suffer terribly during the Obama administration, but it didn’t exactly thrive, either. Thanks, Obama?

President Barrack Obama always seemed to understand that water is life, yet freshwater protection has not always been the divining rod in his decisions. If that were so, he would have banned fracking in the Delaware River Basin when he had the chance.

Donald Trump is a threat to every last watershed in the country, as he and his shale-happy appointees have promised to extract every last penny from an expensive and grossly overestimated supply. They honestly don’t care if you can set your water on fire. And if the result should be more costly access to a diminishing supply of safe, clean drinking water, then they’ll probably try to profit off that, too.

So, while the mainstream media is having its long overdue existential crisis, ordinary bloggers are left to chronicle Obama’s legacy and its impact on our drinking water supply, and to find new ways to help protect our precious fresh water. Me, I like lists.

Seven Things Obama Did – And Didn’t Do – For The Delaware River Basin …

# 7   He Left It At Moratorium

Obama could have banned fracking in the Delaware River Basin in 2011, but he didn’t.

Characteristically, the President shied away from the passion and drama surrounding the fight to save the Delaware River from fracking in 2011. Voting on the Delaware River Basin Commission’s drilling regulations has been postponed indefinitely. It’s important to remember that Obama didn’t use the opportunity to vote for the new regulations, either. He essentially maintained the status quo, yet the watershed remains vulnerable today as a result.

Delaware River Basin Commission: Battleground for Gas Drilling, StateImpact Pennsylvania

# 6   He Put Profits Over People

Unfortunately, when Obama was flush with Federal funds, he prioritized “Build America” projects more like a pragmatist than an environmental steward. He talked the talk, but he often walked towards profits over people, such as when he promoted fracking as a “bridge” in his State of the Union in January, 2014 . In 2016, Obama deepened the wounds when he allocated funds to dredge and deepen the Delaware River for shipping despite strenuous opposition by local environmental groups.

# 5   He Protected Wetlands

Obama clearly did sweat the fate of our wetlands. In May 2015, President Obama closed a loophole in the Clean Water Act created by Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. This provided Federal protections to more than 49,000 miles of rivers, small streams and tributaries of the Delaware, Susquehanna and Ohio rivers. So important was this executive action that Adam Garber, Field Director with PennEnvironment extolled it as “The biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

# 4  He Let FERC Do The Dirty Work

On gas pipelines, and on FERC, he was kind of jerk. Obama let this industry-heavy commission run roughshod over average citizens. Repeatedly, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission showed bias and corruption in its use of eminent domain and shady, closed-door hearings to seize land from property owners opposed to having dangerous, private pipelines on their land.


Cartoon by T. McCracken

# 3  He Took Clean Water Actions

Obama stood up for clean water anyway. Nine times in his presidency, Obama vetoed GOP bills that threatened the Clean Water Act. Look for Trump and Co. to gut this law like a fish while our drinking water supply is replaced by a steady stream of hostile tweets.

Obama deserves credit for directing the EPA to study the impacts of shale gas fracking on fresh water supplies, but he did not prevent the industry from pressuring Chief Administrator Gina McCarthy to change the wording of the report at the last minute in order to downplay the dangers. When the misleading edits were decried by the very scientists who had worked on the study, Obama did little to end the highly politicized debate. When the administration did eventually admit that fracking can affect drinking water, the comments were limited, perhaps in an attempt to diffuse the debacle of a major deception exposed.

# 2  He Said “All of The Above” And Meant It

Then he had to go and take credit for fracking! Obama’s outgoing Department of Energy Chief, Ernest Moniz, has always been a big fan of shale. In his January, 2017 exit memo, Moniz attempted to credit the Obama administration for the fracking boom that has unleashed domestic gas supplies, along with untold pollution across the U.S. It seems, Obama’s “All of the Above” policy applies to dubious bragging rights, too.

# 1  He showed us the money.

As if to add a final, positive flourish to his legacy in the historic Delaware, Barrack Obama has ultimately left us with the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, a swan song of a law which he signed in December, 2016. The new Conservation Law allocates millions in federal funding to protect and restore critical habitats and water quality, and it has left many conservation groups feeling optimistic.

However, given the overt hostility of the incoming administration towards environmental regulations, I can’t help but worry that Obama’s legacy in the Delaware basin is more symbolic than everlasting. The healthy future of the river continues to face major challenges. Numerous urgent issues, from the proliferation of gas pipelines to protecting endangered bat populations, must be addressed before environmentalists can claim any real victory. The new law promises government funds for a variety of projects and studies across the watershed, but considering who will be holding the purse strings, and his penchant for stiffing vendors, river advocates probably shouldn’t spend it so fast.

And, of course, we still need to ban fracking.

SIGN THE PETITION!  The Delaware River Basin is the water supply for 16.5 million people. Now more than ever, we need to take action to protect it:

Tell the DRBC to Ban Fracking in the Delaware River Basin 

via Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

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