Friday, December 16, 2011

Public Service or Public Sacrifice?

Photo by Amy Roe
I’ve often heard that being elected to public office is about sacrifice.  Naively, I thought that meant personal sacrifice on the part of the elected official to ensure they did the very best job they could for their constituents.  Unfortunately, it seems that the “sacrifice” that many public officials are willing to make these days is sacrificing the public, the environment and the health of future generations in order to serve their own personal and political agendas, including those of their political friends and donors.

I didn’t think the sacrifices of public service would include the 19 families in Dimock, PA who have lost their clean and healthy drinking water because it was contaminated by Marcellus shale gas drilling. The State is choosing not to ensure the long-term replacement or restoration of the water by the drillers – instead the State has allowed the drilling company responsible to stop their delivery and pursuit of a suitable and long-term water supply for these families.  I also didn’t think the sacrifices of public service would include the growing volume of families, environments and kids-yet-to-be-born, to the shale gas drillers who are wreaking such havoc wherever they seem to go.

I didn’t think the sacrifices of public service would include the oystermen, the fishermen, the bed and breakfasts, the entire population of Delaware River Atlantic Sturgeon, and much more that will be harmed by deepening the Delaware River – a project that Pennsylvania is going to use taxpayer dollars to pay for. The Government Accountability Office has three times challenged the Army Corps’ assertions of the economic benefits of the project and so the federal government isn’t putting forth the money – nor are the businesses who claim they support the project. 

I didn’t think the sacrifices of public service included the families who live downstream from major development and gas drilling projects and will suffer the resulting dangers and pollution because Pennsylvania legislators would rather make life easier for the developers and drillers rather than require basic safety measures like ensuring protection of the floodplains, buffers and woodlands that prevent growing and future flooding problems, water pollution and air pollution.

And now we have the Pennsylvania Legislators willing to strip communities of their legal authorities to protect themselves from damaging community and environmental projects like gas drilling, to learn more and get active on this one see:

I think it is about time that public service be about serving the public, protecting the health, safety, future and needs of the public.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Defining Moment – What Comes First, Your Water and Air or a False Promise of Cheap Energy

 One of the defining moments of our time and for our region is here today.  Will we trade the water, air, food and health of thousands of communities and millions of people to smash gas from the ancient rocks that are part of our earth’s foundation?

Many are rightfully raising their voices up against this injustice, which is happening in many parts of the country but not yet in the Delaware River basin.  They are pointing to the tyranny that would allow private profits of big business like Hess and Exxon and Chesapeake to once again be built upon the forced sacrifice of hard-working people, communities and environments.

But raising our voices isn’t enough.

In 2000, when the Supreme Court decided who would become the next President of the United States many people spoke out in anger and demanded change but in the end nothing really happened.

When we learned conclusively that this country’s leaders deliberately lied in order to take this country into war many spoke up in outrage and shame but in the end nothing changed.

When the opportunity to provide genuine health care for all people in this country -- including those so desperately in need due to the misfortune of illness, or accident or corporate malfeasance – was dashed because of the “Don’t’ Kill Granny” marketing scheme, many rose up and spoke out, but when all was said and done the path of the politicians didn’t really change.

In 2009, when the Army Corps exempted itself out of its obligation to comply with federal and state laws before instituting a $277 million dollar deepening project that puts at risk the safety, ecology, economy, beauty and health of our Delaware Estuary many spoke up but the arrogance of the Army Corps won out and the project began its slow stumble forward.[1]

And then we had the government bailouts.  Bailouts for corporations and banks who had run scams and questionable businesses practices that robbed people of their retirements and lost them their jobs, while at the same time providing record salaries for the very corporate leaders who had engaged in these bad practices.  And the very government leaders that were happy to bailout their rich corporate buddies are now working against unemployment benefits, social security, medicare and the unions that were created to protect and serve our citizens when in times of need.  And so now the voices are once again building against the injustices.  And yet the media and the politicians don’t seem to be listening – trying to mischaracterize or minimize the very legitimate and deeply held concerns of the communities who are speaking out. 

With drilling we have so many well-informed, passionate, convincing, credible, well-spoken and well intentioned voices speaking out and taking action to spread the word about the dangers of gas drilling – and this time, we must continue to strive until something does in fact change! 

We are now coming to a moment of truth – if the Governors of the four states and the President of the United States, through the Army Corps, convenes on 11/21 to vote to begin drilling and fracking in the Delaware Watershed, we must send a message loud and clear that these votes against our rights to clean water and air will not be tolerated. We must make sure our politicians at all levels know – if you hand over our water, our air, our lands and our health to the drillers on 11/21, the voices will not quiet, they will grow louder, and the political consequences will be swift, resilient, and ongoing. 

The protests around fossil fuels are growing in this nation and a strong diverse movement has formed.  On November 6th, over ten thousand citizens encircled the White House to say no to tar sands mining.  On 11/21, we need thousands to again stand up in solidarity to draw a line of protection for our River and to say no drilling in the Delaware River Basin.

What action can you take now?
ü  Come to the Trenton War Memorial on 11/21 and legally exercise your first amendment rights to help show our politicians that their decision on that day does matter and, if wrong, will have political and legal consequences.
ü  Bring everyone in your community you can come in contact with into the fold on this issue.
ü  Help us counter the false television advertising that right now is going unchallenged across the airwaves – gives one path to help us raise the funds needed for our message of truth and hope.
ü  Between now and 11/21 take every action you learn about that is being crafted and carried out to get the Governors and the President to make the right choice. Start by calling each of the Governors and tell them to vote on 11/21 – Don’t Drill the Delaware - Gov Christie - 609-292-6000; Governor Cuomo -518-474-8390; Gov Corbett – 717-787-2500; Gov Markell-302-577-3210; And the white house 202-456-1111

[1] The Delaware Riverkeeper Network along, with environmental colleagues National Wildlife Federation, NJ Environmental Federation, Delaware Nature Society and Clean Water Action, have filed legal action against the Army Corps in order to try to stop their violations of law and the dangerous precedent they are seeking to set – oral argument will be held in January before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

November 21 -- Speak Up For Your Community; Stand Against Gas Drilling

November 21 is an important day for Delaware River communities, for the citizens/families of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware, and for the future of our country.  Wow, that’s a big day? you might be saying.  What could possibly be happening? you might be asking. 

November 21, in Trenton, NJ, the Governors of the four states and a representative for the President will decide how much they value life – or whether they value corporations and political contributions more.  On November 21 they will be voting whether to open the Delaware River watershed up to gas drilling or not. 

Contrary to the slick marketing campaigns of the shale gas companies,  drilling makes communities sick. 

The drilling and blasting  used to get the gas, consumes, permanently, billions of gallons of our finite freshwater, locking it underground and poisoning it with dangerous toxins such as arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, m,p-Xylene, barium, chromium, radium, and strontium..  The drilling, blasting and fracking release benzene, toluene, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, lung-irritating particulates, volatile organics and more into the air we breathe.
My Kids -- Along with the River, I will be 
Standing to Protect
Them From Gas Drilling --
 For Their Present and Future
In just a three month period this year  Pennsylvania papers reported an explosion in a water well that forced a family from their home because of nearby drilling; drinking water wells for three homes in one community and  7 homes in another community contaminated because of drilling, as well as methane bubbling up through the Susquehanna River; a driller fined for an hydraulic oil spill that polluted the soil, and another company fined for discharging drilling poisons into two high quality creeks; two workers injured in an explosion at a gas drilling site; a blowout at a well site dumping thousands of gallons of drilling waste on farm lands, into creeks and forcing 7 families to evacuate.  During this same period Cornell University published areport documenting that fracking contributes to global warming as much, or even more, than coal and Duke University published a paper analyzing the increased contamination found in groundwater of homes located near drilling rigs.   
Mothers, fathers, doctors are coming out talking about their children that have been harmed by drilling– children suffering nose bleeds, headaches, high levels of dangerous substances in their blood.   The stories are heart wrenching. 

Government is supposed to protect the people.  On November 21 there is an opportunity to protect from gas drilling the 15 million people who drink Delaware River water, and the millions who breathe the air, eat the fish, and feed from the lands in the River’s watershed. 

Learn more at

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why 11/21 Is So Important For Prevent Drilling & Fracking

For over 3 years the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and our whole watershed community has been fighting to protect our River and communities from the ravages of gas drilling and fracking and all of the deforestation, development, and devastation they bring.

For over 3 years we have attended public meetings and along with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of others; we have submitted tens of thousands of pages of comment; we have provided thousands of pages of expert opinion; and delivered hundreds of hours of testimony on why gas drilling should not be allowed in our watershed.

And now we are at the final moment.  The Governors and the Army Corps Colonel that are the real commissioners of the Delaware River Basin Commission who have the authority to give drilling a thumbs up or a thumbs down, are in the final stages of making the decision about whether or not to allow drilling.

Overall, the representatives for New York and Delaware have been much more open minded  and stood stronger for protection than New Jersey, Pennsylvania or the Army Corps (representing the President) have been.  But, there is still a chance to convince New Jersey and the Corps to make the right choice.  Pennsylvania is likely a lost cause, but we are ever hopeful if we can give a clear show of opposition from the region that even Pennsylvania might recognize the important qualities that warrant protecting our watershed from drilling -- and even if we don't, as long as we have the other Commissioners we will be able to secure the votes for protection we need.  (DRBC is a majority rules system at the Commissioner level.)

Over these past three years it is quite unbelievable that drilling in our watershed is even still an option.  At DRBC public meetings and hearings we have learned:
  • Poignant stories of incredible sickness caused by drilling -- barium levels in the blood of a mother and son many times over what is deemed safe; nose bleeds, headaches, confusion, asthma and and exposure to toxins that can lead to cancer, developmental problems, autism and more;
  • Documented cases of water pollution, air pollution, and deforestation that has devastated special fishing and hunting spots and destroyed dependent businesses;
  • Plummeting market values of homes located near drilling pads -- so much so that realtors won't sell them and banks won't provide the loans needed by would-be buyers -- locking homeowners forever into homes where they are vexed by polluted drinking water, air pollution, sickness, and the constant noise and lights of drilling sites;
  • Livestock becoming ill, dying and/or unable to reproduce healthy offspring because of drilling contamination;

On November 21, the DRBC Commissioners are set to cast a vote that could open up our Delaware River watershed to drilling.

Unfortunately, on November 21 there is no opportunity for the public to testify and to try once again to convince the DRBC Commissioners to hear us about why drilling should not be allowed.  So the only way to send our message is by sheer volume of numbers -- if we can fill the theater with our presence and the signs that contain our message -- Don't Drill the Delaware -- then we can send a strong message about how we need them to vote.

We are dealing with a public health, water and air emergency of catastrophic proportions and we must be heard.  This may be the last chance to protect ourselves from drilling before having to resort to the courts -- which is never a guaranteed option of hope or help.

And so, we are gathering on 11/21 to engage in lawful, peaceful, first amendment activity so as to make sure the Governors, the Colonel, and the President know that we don't want drilling in our watershed and communities.  This is our last chance to be heard before they decide and to force them to hear our message by the sheer volume of our presence:

Don't Drill the Delaware!

Come Stand with Us on November 21 to Take This Last Chance to Be Heard.
And to enjoy our right to engage in this exercise of lawful, peaceful, first amendment activity.
For training to ensure a safe and lawful day join us for our scheduled training:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gas Tax Not the Ultimate Solution

Looks eerily like a cigarette.
A gas tax will be as effective as a cigarette tax on
preventing harm  ...  It won't!
Anyone focused on the tax of gas drilling as their only or primary goal, has succeeded in becoming the pawns of the gas drilling industry.  Those who include discuss of tax in their repertoire of discussion are doing the right thing; those using it as their repertoire are either using it as political cover or are allowing themselves to be used by industry.

The gas industry, like so many others in big business, is a master of spin, deception and diversion. They fight the gas tax as though it would be a big burden. And in so doing, keep the debate focused on whether or not they should be taxed, rather than the question of whether or not they should be allowed to drill in the first instance, and if so, how, when and where regulation should limit that drilling. Being the subject of a gas tax rather than future limits on drilling (whether by moratorium, strong regulation or strong legislation) would be a big win for the gas drillers – not the loss they are trying to make you believe.

Smart legislators, environmental organizations, and gas drilling opponents might include the question of a tax in their advocacy and efforts regarding drilling for natural gas, but they don’t allow it to become the message.

When it comes to gas drilling the first question that has to be answered is whether or not we should allow drilling at all using the devastating tactics and technologies the drillers are seeking – i.e. sprawling wells, roads and pipelines coupled with horizontal drilling, hydrofracturing and the massive volumes of water withdraw and chemical contamination that result in a permanent loss of fresh water of massive and unsustainable proportions.

The second question is, to the extent we do allow some drilling, where will we allow that drilling to take place, using what technologies, subject to what limitations, and with what safeguards for shut down.

The final question to be answered is, to the extent we do allow drilling, how much will we tax it and how will those funds be used to protect and restore the environments and communities harmed.

Beginning and ending the conversation with the question of a gas tax is foolish and plays right into the hands of the drillers.

While a tax may raise some money, and is an easy political position for those politicians who actually support drilling to take, it will not prevent the poisoning of water, air and people that drilling brings; nor will it stop the industrialization of our most beautiful communities, changing them from rural havens of beauty to industrial landscapes that can never be repaired; and it will not prevent the permanent loss of fresh water (through underground injection and industrial poisoning) or protection from global climate change our children, family, friends and ancestors of the future will need and have a right to expect from us.

There are some very good legislators and environmental organizations who oppose drilling in whole or part who have the gas tax as part of their repertoire of positions – that makes sense.  But to have the gas tax as an only focus? Those folks are clearly looking for the easy out.

A gas tax raises money but it doesn’t prevent harm or protect communities.

When cigarette smoking was taxed by Pennsylvania it may have raised (and still does raise) lots of money, but since then over 1.2 million have died as the result of smoking (and that figure doesn’t include the indirect deaths or excruciating health impacts). Taxing gas may raise money – but as with a cigarette tax it won’t stop people from dying or the environment from being ravaged.

First we must ask ourselves – should we drill at all.
Then we must ask, if so, to what extent? Where? When? How? And under what regulatory requirements?
Then we can decide how much to tax! Not should we tax but how much!

On another note about buying into the strategy of the drillers: We are suddenly hearing a lot about areas that are no longer targets for drilling due to bad geology or low concentrations of gas. The timing of these revelations seem awfully suspicious and convenient — they come at the same time that there is an outpouring of demand to protect the Delaware River from gas drilling. Could it be that the "sudden" revelations that drilling doesn't make sense in some of the areas of greatest concern to communities and politicians, including the Upper Delaware River watershed, is merely a smokescreen to deflate the outpouring of citizen and political action on the issue?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Water is Essential -- Gas Drilling is Not

There are alternative sources of energy that don’t require shale drilling or hydrofracking.
There is no alternative for water.

Gas and profits may be inviting to some.
Water is essential to us all.

The amount of freshwater on Earth, in our watershed and in our region, is finite.
And yet the DRBC is proposing, with its draft gas drilling regulations, to give hundreds of billions of gallons of our fresh water to the drillers – not in the form of a temporary use that will eventually return to our water systems – but a permanent taking. 

The damage is from the combination of drilling, hydrofracking and massive land development that combine to rob our watershed and our people of clean fresh water and the healthy habitats we need to thrive.

Only 2.53% of the water on earth is freshwater and so usable for nourishing humans.  Of this, about 2/3 is locked up in glaciers and permanent snow cover. That leaves less than 1% for our use.

Water is often characterized as cyclical or renewable.  But that is absolutely not so when we are talking about horizontal fracturing, hydrofracking and shale gas drilling.
  • Either the drillers are making up to 9 million gallons of water per well (over average 5 million) so toxic we can’t use it again, except for more drilling, and we have made it loose in the environment to pollute other clean waters and healthy environments. 
  • Or they are locking our River’s water under ground, in its toxic condition, never to be available for human or animal use ever again.

 Either way it is untenable and wholly unacceptable.

According to the UN, the world is already facing a water crisis.
“This crisis is one of water governance, [] caused by the ways in which we mismanage water.”

That is exactly what the DRBC is proposing here.
According to the United Nations, 4,400 children under the age of 5 die every day because of polluted water.  And 1 in every 6 humans on this earth have no access to clean water within a kilometer of their homes.
There are many stories of communities denied access to abundant and clean water – children walking miles to fetch water, suffering skin lesions and extreme illness due to water pollution, farmers struggling for the quantity of water they need to grow food for their communities. We are more fortunate than these communities, and yet we are poised to squander our good fortune.
Today our Delaware River is healthy in its upper reaches – because of the hard work of many who cared enough to fight for its protection.  
But the quality of the water is fragile, and our lower reaches already struggle from pollution.
And we already have water battles in our basin.
And yet the DRBC dares put the quality and available quantity of our precious Delaware at risk for drilling.

DRBC does not have the knowledge needed to craft a set of regulations that would protect our water, air, land and communities from shale gas drilling. Not until a scientific and cumulative assessment of the process and its affects has been completed.

We are talking about:
  • Toxic pollution,
  • Sprawling industrial development and waste,
  • Increased flooding from the development,
  • A permanent loss of fresh drinking water,
And more.

And yet the DRBC is inexcusably refusing to secure the needed scientific work before it pushes out its regulations and opens the doors wide for the gas drillers. 

The claim of jobs that the Pennsylvania Governor and the Army Corps cling to doesn’t hold.
Drilling is going to do harm to the billions in economic benefit and the jobs provided by a healthy Delaware River and its healthy, forested watershed. 

And it’s not just the River jobs those who support this drilling are so willing to sacrifice.
It’s also the health and safety of our communities that get sacrificed if this drilling moves forward as is being proposed with the DRBC regulations.

Drilling must not happen, not now, and maybe not ever.  Either way DRBC doesn't have the science or knowledge to know the answers to “if?” or “how”.

UN Source:  United Nations World Water Development Report

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Investment & Care in Roads for Our Cars but Not Water for Our Bodies?

I was headed to the Darby Creek to unstress from a difficult day.

As I walked to the Creek I noticed a number of potholes on the side of the road that will be quickly addressed when the warmer weather comes.

As I stood by the creek appreciating the beauty of the gently flowing waters I saw a bridge being carefully reconstructed to protect it from damage.

And then it hit me -- we invest billions in carefully caring for our roadways to make them easier to drive and to prevent damage to our cars.  We plan for their care, we save for their care, we regulate their use, we invest every year in massive road restoration and reconstruction projects, we charge tolls and taxes to pay for it all.

But when it comes to regulating for, protecting for, paying for the care and restoration of our waterways, the water that we put into our bodies, that we eat fish from, that we swim in and swallow, get way short shrift -- the battles over regulations and investment to protect our waters wage furious.  Much of the time, if not most of the time, those that want to pollute and damage these waters we need to sustain our lives, win.  The drillers, dredgers, dischargers and developers only have to claim the creation of a few jobs -- whether sustainable or not, whether true or not -- and they get to prevent the regulation and restoration sought and needed for the rest of us.

Clean water is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  Without healthy water to sustain us, all the money in the world makes not one wit of difference.

So we need to tell the drillers, dredgers, dischargers and developers - and all the politicians they contribute to -- that our water comes first.

When we protect our water we protect ourselves -- and at the same time we protect jobs, we create jobs, and we ensure a healthy future for ourselves and our children.  We can't afford to put our healthy rivers and waters anywhere on our priority list but at number one, along with our air and forests which are also vital and irreplaceable to our healthy selves, kids and future.

When it comes down to it:
When We Best Protect our River -- We Best Protect Ourselves!