Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pledge Your Protection to the River

As we head into the coming week of holidays we are thinking about family and friends, about the world we live in and how we can make it more loving and warm for all those we care about.  We also think beyond our homes to the world beyond, to those in need. 

This year, among those in need are those that are suffering from the ravages of shale gas, fracking and their drill sites, pipelines and compressors.  Also among those in need are the ones who have suffered the devastating storms, floods and more that are being brought with increased intensity and frequency because of the changing climates brought on by our intense use of fossil fuels.

So as you head into the week of holidays and thinking about others, please think about the steps you can take today to make a change for our energy future, to help us ward off the ravages of drilling, fracking and climate change. 

Please take a moment to take a pledge of resistance and protection for the Delaware River watershed and all the communities that live here, work here, recreate here and enjoy all we have to offer.

And take a moment to commit to demand a better energy future – one that lights and warms our present and future with greater energy efficiency and sustainability and rejects the ongoing and increasing use of fossil fuels.

You can make your pledge at

And don't forget to send in your one minute video of what you want to say to Governor Corbett so I can bring it to my meeting with him on January 8th and let him hear directly from you your thoughts on the issues of sustainable energy, drilling, fracking, pipelines and compressors.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown To a Pipeline - First Success Giving More Time To Act

We may have a few more weeks to mobilize against the NorthEast Upgrade Project.  And so we have scheduled a second organizing and training for how to best and lawfully exercise our first amendment rights to help stop this project and speak for the River, trees, public lands and our communities. 

If you can, join us on December 29 and January 12.  To learn more and find out how to sign up:

Up until yesterday Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company has said only that tree clearing would begin for their Northeast Upgrade project at multiple locations starting the second day of the New Year -- January 2nd, 2013.  Yesterday we learned something  new.

Recall that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and the Responsible Drilling Alliance filed an action challenging the PA permits issued for the project and also to ask for an emergency stay until our case could be heard.  Our emergency stay would prevent any tree clearing or felling in Pennsylvania until such time as our case was heard – because if the trees are allowed to be cut and/or cleared before we ever get to make our case, a major part of the damage will be irreparably done. 

Well, on December 20, the judge scheduled an emergency hearing to hear arguments on our request for that emergency stay.  While the judge did not grant us that request, a major underpinning of his decision was representations by the pipeline company that they would not begin tree felling or clearing before a hearing could be held and decided upon.  We believe it likely that this assertion of no action before a hearing could be held was part of TGPs strategy to undermine and defeat our request; and it worked.  But, while it may have defeated our request it did give us this extra time.

While TGP initially threw out the dates of January 13 or 14 to begin tree felling; because the hearing only got scheduled for January 14 thru 16 it is our belief that nothing should happen until the judge rules. So at a minimum, the 13th seems to be the earliest possible start date for cutting of the trees and we believe that actually it could even be later – unless of course we win which we certainly hope to do. 

The other thing we learned at the emergency hearing – well the other thing TGP said (yes a bit of sarcasm here) – is that they would not be mobilizing a lot of big equipment to do the tree felling, they would be invading our forests with armies of individuals carrying chain saws to cut the trees and then leave them where they fall until the spring when permits would allow them to pull the trees out using the big equipment.   
Let's Keep It this Way

So the countdown continues, but perhaps we have a bit more time now until we win.

Please consider coming to one of our trainings.

And if you live or recreate near the proposed pipeline and see any activity in the coming days and/or weeks please take photos and contact us immediately on our 1-800-8-DELAWARE pollution hotline number or by calling the Delaware Riverkeeper directly at 215 369 1188 ext 102 so we can take appropriate action.  And if you can post them to the facebook page too:  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

15 Days In Our Countdown To A Pipeline

It is just 15 days until January 2nd arrives, the date the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company plans to begin mobilization for the tree cutting and devastation that begins construction of its NorthEast Upgrade Project.  As of today TGP does not have all of the permits it needs for this project -- there are still outstanding permits on the New Jersey side and the Army Corps of Engineers has not given all of its approvals and of course our request for a rehearing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) remains outstanding -- but TGP is not to be deterred and still plans to begin its mobilization and project come the second day of the new year.

What it is now
In response to our request for a stay pending a hearing TGP told FERC:
"Intervenors have failed to establish that they will be irreparably harmed if a stay of construction of Tennessee’s Northeast Upgrade Project (“Northeast Upgrade” or “Project”) is not granted.  By contrast, Tennessee will suffer substantial harm..."

What it will become if TGP has its way
The deforestation of public and private lands, the denuding of banks along pristine streams and wetlands, removing trees that have taken generations to grow, and the exposure and devastating transformation of streams and wetlands that have taken many life times to evolve, is not an irreparable harm to TGP.  But a delay in the project that may cost them some money -- well that constitutes a harm they say should not be tolerated.  

I have one word to this perspective -- WARPED.  

Well maybe a few more: disgusting, selfish, greedy, an assault on past, present and future generations that cannot be tolerated.  

So what have I as the Delaware Riverkeeper done today to protect our streams, wetlands, forests, Rivers and communities?  

I have authorized and ordered my lawyers on staff to file a challenge to the Pennsylvania permits that were issued for this project along with a request that the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issue a stay pending the outcome of that legal proceeding.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network has put together the case and filings that we know justify such a step by the EHB. The only question is whether they will take the steps necessary to act upon it.  To learn more about today's filing:

Also today the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and our colleagues at Energy Justice are announcing a training to take place on December 29 to learn about lawful nonviolent direct action and how citizens can effectively and lawfully exercise their first amendment rights in the face of the power that is a pipeline company.  This training will have the TGP NEUP as a focus, but by no means are the topics and skills learned there limited to use with the NEUP pipeline -- the skills and knowledge to be gained at the training can be used in the face of any environmental harm that is being unjustly inflicted upon a community.  So consider coming to the beautiful Upper Delaware to learn how you can help us keep our whole watershed beautiful, safe and protected for the benefit of us all.  To learn more and sign up:

And also today we invited any and all residents of Pennsylvania to share with us a one minute video that can be taken to my meeting with Governor Corbett in early January to bring to him the voices of the Commonwealth that have been impacted by drilling, pipelines, compressors and fracking and/or that have an opinion about the value of sustainable energy for fulfilling our present and future energy needs.  
To learn more and how your video could become part of this meeting with the Governor:

We are at 15 days and counting -- and remain undaunted in our efforts to protect Delaware River and all Pennsylvania and New Jersey communities from the needless devastation the TGP NEUP pipeline project and the shale gas drilling sites it services will bring.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Countdown To A Pipeline – And Stopping It

Posted December 14, 2012

While most communities in the country are counting down to their special holiday, I’m counting down to January 2nd, the day that the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company recently announced it was going to begin its rampage to cut through 450 acres of land and forest in the Delaware River watershed for a pipeline to carry unsustainable/dirty fracked shale gas.  The pipeline, tree cutting, stream gouging, and wetlands devastation will happen through mature forests, pristine streams, and beautiful residential communities that have been largely preserved – until now.

Which pipeline is this one?  Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s  NorthEast Upgrade Project (NEUP).  

(For a map of this and all pipeline projects proposed for our Watershed go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network Website at:

We have 19 days to stop this fracked gas pipeline from cutting through healthy pristine habitat and rural communities that still thrive in PA and NJ– we have 19 days left to see if the decision-makers and the courts finally listen and respond to our legal challenges and concerns from the community. Of course the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is not sitting idly by while the countdown happens.  We are taking action.

Back in June we filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ask them to revisit key decisions on this pipeline – mainly the level of devastation it will bring to our watershed communities.  So far FERC has sat silent on that request.  In contrast, FERC has issued multiple responses to multiple requests put forth by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, and often within a matter of days.  And in fact, just today December 14, FERC granted TGP permission to move forward with the project and the advance tree cutting just 11 days after they asked for the permission; and yet FERC still has not responded to our request for a rehearing and it's been almost a full 6 months (169 days to be exact) since our legal request was filed on June 28.  FERC is leaving us no option but to go to the courts -- how is that for public service?

In August Delaware Riverkeeper Network had also filed a rehearing request with the Delaware River Basin Commission urging them to review the project – last week, as the result of a backroom deal and no public comment whatsoever they rejected that request, as well as a petition we submitted in September urging them to review all pipelines including the NEUP.  (videos of petition rejected: ; petition first submitted: )

For the past 17 months, Delaware Riverkeeper Network scientists and citizen monitors have been out in the field – documenting  harm and pollution inflicted by TGP’s past pipeline debacles.   See for example a story about their wetlands assaults: &

But that is not where we are stopping – not at all.  There is much more to come.

With 450 acres of land, 90 streams and 136 wetlands in our watershed alone on the chopping block, literally, we will not sit idly by and just let it happen.

So our holiday plans at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network include the joy of doing what is right and best for our communities, giving the River, the forests, the streams, wetlands and communities a voice against the Pipeline Goliath that is callously seeking to indelibly devastate them with its giant footprint of damage.

Stay tuned to see what we are up to and how you can help.

And consider setting aside December 29 to learn how you can exercise your first amendment rights and help us stand up to this pipeline Goliath if our legal attempts to stop it before then fail.  And then again we can gather in the New Year, January 2nd, and as countless others have done in years past, we can join together and in solidarity speak up against harmful projects fueling the fracked gas frenzy including the NorthEast Upgrade Pipeline Project.

We have 19 days!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pipelines -- Another Front In the Shale Gas Drilling Battles

Reading about the ravages of gas drilling, or fracking, often leaves people feeling despair – helpless to act to protect themselves, their kids or their community. So before this blog jumps into another element of the drilling process, I want to begin on a positive. Across the nation communities are getting active and taking actions that are successfully protecting them from fracking. For example, in the Delaware River basin tens of thousands joined forces and secured a moratorium on drilling that has held for over 2 years; in New Jersey legislators are passing legislation to keep drilling waste and fracking out of that state; in New York citizen action seems to have sent a strong message to the Governor that he needs to rethink his plan to open up that state to drilling; and in Pennsylvania the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and seven townships joined forces in a legal action that struck down Pennsylvania’s pro-drilling legislation called Act 13. The key is to take the difficult knowledge of the harms of fracking and to use it to strengthen your resolve and help embolden yourself and your community into action. 

So here’s a new piece of knowledge to help in that endeavor.

When people hear about the proliferation of gas drilling happening in the US the word “fracking” often comes to mind. But another word needs to join the drilling vocabulary – “pipelines”. The spread of gas drilling and fracking also means more pipelines. Every gas well fracked and drilled requires approximately 1.6 miles of pipeline – and that is just to get the gas from the well pad to the interstate line that cuts its swath from community to community to community, linking all that potential harm together.

Pipelines are known to emit methane, Almost 1 percent, with some estimates being as high as 10 percent, of the gas drilled from a well is lost during the storage and transmission of extracted gas. And methane is the second largest contributor to climate change, and 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the earth.

Every pipeline brings with it a cut across the landscape. Virgin forests, residential communities, pristine waterways, and productive wetlands all must give way when a pipeline comes through.

Forests cut or fragmented for a pipeline cannot sustain the sensitive wildlife that needs the deep, mature woods to survive. The cutting of forests means rainfall once captured by the leaves and soaked up by roots and soil now runs off contributing to pollution, erosion and flooding downstream. Streams are “open cut” to lay pipes across. Wetlands are drained and become lined with grass so they can no longer sustain the quantity and quality of life they once did. And that is if the pipeline company does a good job.

To move the gas through the pipeline requires compressors. And so communities are burdened with loud polluting compressors as often as every 40 to 100 miles, emitting a variety of air pollutants and lots of loud noise. In DISH Texas, high levels of carcinogenic and neurotoxic air pollutants were recorded near compressor stations.

And despite the messaging campaigns of the gas drilling companies that we need to undertake these extreme extraction practices in order to wean our country off of foreign sources of fossil fuels and to keep the prices of gas low -- he truth is that many of these pipelines are, or will, take this gas to liquefied natural gas facilities that will take the gas overseas, to foreign countries, causing the price of gas in the United States to rise, and preventing it from being here for domestic use. In fact the gas drilling industry is already building and pursuing facilities that will take as much as 20 percent of the U.S. supply of natural gas to foreign countries; and they are just getting started.

So even if you are spared the construction and drilling of gas wells in your community, don’t be surprised if you find yourself faced with the proposal for a pipeline through your community or favorite forest or woods; neighbor to a 15,000 horsepower compressor; downstream of a wastewater plant discharging frack waste or dealing with drilling companies who want to suck millions to billions of gallons of water out of your local creek.

So what can you do?

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is obligated to review and approve any pipeline projects that pass through the boundaries of the Delaware River Watershed. To date it has chosen not to exercise that jurisdiction. DRBC has received a formal Petition from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network to secure the exercise of their jurisdiction. We need your letter today to urge the DRBC to respond favorably to this formal Petition and to exercise their jurisdiction.

Please join us and send your important letter today to protect the Delaware River Basin and the livelihoods and life the River sustains.  Write and send your letter directly or let the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website help you by clicking here.

Carol Collier, Executive Director
Delaware River Basin Commission
25 State Police Drive
P.O. Box 7360
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360

Learn more check out the Delaware Riverkeeper Network video on pipelines. Click here.

Originally written by me, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, as guest blogger for Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, posted at .

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dear President Obama -- From a Teen About Gas Drilling

What one teenager said to the President about gas drilling ...

Dear President Obama:

I am just a 15 year old girl. But I am a 15 year old girl who has spent her life on the Delaware River. I was born in Trenton and moved into Pennsylvania right across the bridge and literally down the street from the river. My mom, being the Delaware Riverkeeper, raised me and showed me the beauty within the river. I even wrote a story as a little child about how the river isn't just water, its a living thing. I've always felt that there is a spirit in the river. Every plant, drip of water, stone, tree, flower, & creature that live and depend upon the Delaware River cannot afford to be lost. The Delaware River contains a genetically unique species of Atlantic Sturgeon. While there are sturgeon in other rivers, the one in the Delaware River is the only one of its kind. Also there are less than 100 of these sturgeon left and if fracking and drilling take place, well this species will be lost forever. I always thought ever since I was little it's everyones job to protect this planet we live on. Is there a reason so many people don't feel this way?

I went kayaking with Gov. Corbett on the river to try and get him to realize the beauty of it. There were even Bald Eagles flying past us, our nation's symbol. Are you going to allow that symbol that shows the strength of our country be erased? The Delaware River is where we fought for our independence. This river is what gave us our life we have now. This river carried our soldiers and gave them something to fight for. Why are we destroying our history? President Obama, please don't destroy this river. This river holds my whole childhood in it. Through every rapid in that river flows a piece of me. A piece of our country's history. I am proud to say that I have kayaked the same stretch of river as George Washington did so many centuries ago. I want to be able to take my little brother down to the river and show him all the beauty in it. I want to take my children to play in the water and see them be as happy as I was as a little girl. If this river where I grew up in and so many other children spent their lives playing in is destroyed, well then mine and their childhood has been destroyed. The integrity of our country has been destroyed if we are willing to destroy this place where we fought for that very integrity of this country.

President Obama all you have to do is come out on a boat on this river, paddle down it for a few hours, and realize the beauty in it. I invite you to come share this beautiful place with me. See the beauty in it. See the place that molded our country and that of so many lives of so many people. Run your hand through the water Mr. President and feel the river come alive in the very palm of your hands. I grew up on the story of The Lorax. I learned to speak for the trees, the animals, and the river. The Lorax taught me many things and I'm sure it's a story you read to your daughters as well. I ask that you read it again and remember one thing Mr. President that the Lorax has taught me:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3 Dangers of Artificial Turf

Originally written by me, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, as guest blogger for Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, posted at

Artificial Turf on Radnor Township, PA
being used and pooped on by geese raising other health issues

Covering our community and school fields with plastic grass and rubber soil is a disturbing and concerning trend. It has become a status symbol for many communities, where they are all too willing to raid already tight education budgets and sacrifice good education for an artificial field.

While the science is far from settled, there is enough information to demonstrate that artificial turf may pose significant environment, health, safety and quality of life threats to our communities. So far, the studies have found that artificial turf is…

Leaching Toxins in Our Environment: Studies have concluded that artificial turf has the potential to pollute our environment with dangerous toxins like Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phthalates, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead. As a result, runoff from an artificial turf field that drains to a local creek can pose a risk of toxic effects. And kids playing on these fields are exposed to leaching and off-gassing chemicals known to have carcinogenic, reprotoxic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting effects.

Increasing Sports Injury Severity: Researchers are studying the effects of artificial turf on increasing sports injuries, including increasing the frequency and severity of head injuries, increasing the potential for infection and skin burns

Creating Heat Islands: Artificial turf gets much hotter than grass. Studies have found temperatures on artificial turf exceeding temperatures on nearby natural grass in ranges of 39° F to 95° to even 140° F hotter. The result is artificial turf fields, where kids and adults are expected to play their best, at temperatures 117 to 157 degrees and even hotter.

Decisionmakers need to recognize that until the full impacts of artificial turf are studied, understood and known, they need to make the protective decision, the risk averse decision, the decision to keep natural grass in place.

While grass fields are not as environmentally beneficial as forests, wetlands, or meadows, they are many times better than plastic and rubber turf. Grass is a natural pollution filter and stormwater management system, preventing increased storm runoff and cleaning rain water as it flows to our creeks and streams -- artificial turf provides no such benefits.

Plus, with so much artificial nature and artificial play already in the lives of kids, providing living lawns, where a child can quietly pull blades of grass while talking to friends, that will cool their backs as they lay back to watch the clouds blow by, or cushion a fall during a sports game, is a small but significant quality we should protect in their lives.

Maya K. van Rossum is the Delaware Riverkeeper, and has led the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) since 1994. The DRN is a regional nonprofit advocacy organization that monitors the river and all of its tributaries for threats and challenges, and advocates, educates, and litigates for protection, restoration, and change.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Deepening Deception by Army Corps a Travesty - Act Now

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum
delivers a voluminous set of comments
against deepening to the Army Corps
The Army Corps is playing a bait and switch.  They have been unable to get an approval from the State of Delaware for the controversial deepening project and so have now submitted application materials for "maintenance dredging" but, surprise surprise, their maintenance dredging application asks to take the River down to 46 feet, the exact maximum depth of the Deepening Project.

This is the worst kind of deception — a public agency funded with public dollars trying to hoodwink the public.

Tell Delaware to deny the applications from the Army Corps.

As a nation we stand for good government, for honest government — our federal agencies need to be held to the highest standard — and a bait and switch on the public doesn't do it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Importance of Trees

Originally written by me, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, as guest blogger for Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, posted at

"Trees are dirty and they take my open space." Those were the complaints of a homeowner who forced a community and conservation organization to remove 400 of the 1,300 trees they had just planted.

How do you respond to a complaint that trees are dirty? Perhaps trees are dirty, perhaps they do take up space in the landscape, but what would our world be without them?

From the first breath we take on Earth, we benefit from the existence of trees: That first lungful of clean, life-instilling air is made possible by the existence of lots and lots of trees. 
As children we enjoy the adventure that trees bring—tree houses, tree-climbing, trees as imaginary castles or the home of a gnome taking us to magical places of play. And research has shown that exposure to trees and time in nature help diminish the harms of attention-deficit disorder in kids and adults alike.

As parents we appreciate sitting in the cool shade of a tree on a hot summer day while we read books to our kids or watch them play, all the while enjoying the protection from the sun and the musical rustle of the leaves.  

By soaking up water, trees prevent unnatural flooding that can destroy homes and put lives at risk; whether we are talking about catastrophic floods or water in your basement, trees can help prevent the harm. As one expert once told me, "Trees are the best water pumps we have." Trees in just four Philadelphia-area watersheds saved a combined $6.5 billion in otherwise-needed stormwater infrastructure. Tree roots along a bank prevent the erosion of land and protect bridges, roads, and other infrastructure from being undermined.

Trees sequester carbon from the air, helping to slow global warming. Trees filter pollution that would otherwise contaminate our drinking water, pollute our air, and pollute the waters we swim in and eat fish from.  Each tree we plant can provide oxygen for two people for the rest of their lives. By investing $1 to $1.5 billion in protecting the watershed that feeds New York City's drinking water source (the Upper Delaware River), the city avoided spending $10 billion for a water-filtration plant and has some of the best-tasting water in the country. Trees did that!

Need more numbers? Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air-pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion.

The mere presence of trees can increase the market value of our homes by as much as 15 percent, even 38 percent in one documented case. Not only do homeowners benefit, but so do towns; according to one study, more than "$1.5 billion per year is generated in tax revenue for communities in the U.S. due to the value of privately owned trees on residential property."

Trees have value beyond measure. Every aspect of our lives is touched and enhanced by trees. 

Here are 5 things you can do to help the trees:
  1. Plant a native tree, treat it with care, feed it fresh water and give it clean air, protect it from axes that hack and neighbors who gripe, and plant another tree the day after that. 
  2. Read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss to your kids. The original book is much nicer and more meaningful than the recent adaptation found in the movies. Where Once There Was a Wood, by Denise Fleming, is another lovely book that helps children understand the value of nature and trees, and what we lose when trees are gone.
  3. Read Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, and learn how exposure to trees and nature enhances the learning capacity of children and helps address the challenges caused by attention-deficit disorder. 
  4. Encourage your municipality and school district to plant native trees on public lands and school properties.
  5. Urge your municipal officials to pass an ordinance that requires at least a 100-foot vegetated buffer, filled with trees to the greatest degree possible, between streams and new development to prevent unnatural flooding, flood damages, and pollution, and to enhance the habitats of the fish, birds, bugs, and wildlife that also grace our Earth and lives.

(1)  See “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv
(2)  American Forests. 2003. “Urban Ecosystem Analysis Delaware Valley Region: Calculating the Value of Nature.” March 2003. 
(3)  USDA Forest Service Pamphlet #R-92-100
(4)  (McAliney, Mike.  Arguments for Land Conservation; Documentation and information Sources for Land Resources Protection, trust for Public Land, Sacramentao, CA, December 1993.
(5)  Center for Watershed Protection, Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community, August, 1998 Citing two studies by Morales and Weyerhauser.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Delaware Takes Important Step to Protect From Flooding and Pollution

Over $53 million has been paid out to Delaware communities from the National Flood Insurance Program to help pay for damage caused by floods.  Our neighboring states have similarly received tens of millions, in many cases hundreds of millions, to help respond to the damages caused by floods. 

Unnatural flooding, water pollution and erosion that washes away parks and private properties are often the result of inappropriate development practices. 

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is taking a proactive step to help protect our communities from these avoidable harms.  DNREC has proposed new Sediment and Stormwater Regulations that are designed to put in place modern day standards for protecting communities and waterways from the non-natural flooding, pollution and erosion caused by inappropriate development practices.  Unfortunately, Developers are coming out against these reasonable regulations that are designed to protect our communities from avoidable harms. 

The more than reasonable regulations DNREC is proposing will reduce the volume of runoff that is created by new development – it is the volume of runoff that is responsible for growing flood damages in our communities.  The regulations encourage use of development practices that protect vegetated landscapes and focus on soaking water back into the ground rather than letting it run off the land. The regulations ensure that the aquifers that provide us drinking water and feed the streams and wetlands which make Delaware such an enviable place to live are recharged through how development is managed.  The regulations will minimize unnecessary pollution that would otherwise be dumped into our waterways and environments.  And the regulations provide the level of detail and guidance developers, municipalities and citizens need to make sure we are doing all of this in a way that is most protective of our communities.  After all, it’s much cheaper to protect a community than to have to restore it once polluted, flooded, damaged or otherwise harmed – just ask the National Flood Insurance Program which is $18 billion in debt because of such payouts.

DNREC needs citizens to speak out in support of its scientifically based, modern day, and reasonable approach to ensuring new development and redevelopment projects contribute positively to our communities, and don’t do us harm.  The deadline for comments is April 1.  For more information on where to submit comments:

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Americans Get from Fracking

Originally written by me, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, as guest blogger for Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale, posted at

Americans get a lot out of the new technological process called hydrofracking (fracking) – but most of what we get, we absolutely don’t want. 

Fracking is the process used to blast natural gas from the ancient rocks that serve as the foundation of our surface lands.  Each “frack” of a gas well, used to explode the underground rock in order to release the bubbles of gas it contains, requires an average of 5 million gallons of water per well, all of which gets infused with a toxic slurry of some subset of over 500 chemicals.  As much as 80 percent of this water gets trapped underground were this chemical infused brew can slowly migrate through cracks and boreholes (natural and now manmade) including into aquifers that serve as drinking water for people.  What does return to the surface contains dangerous chemicals as well as a host of harmful substances it has pulled from the geology it has passed through, including radioactive materials. 

With as many as 32,000 to 64,000 wells over the Marcellus Shale formations that lie within the Delaware River watershed (that includes 8,784 square miles of Pennsylvania and New York) that is as much as 160 billion to 320 billion gallons of water that is lost for safe human consumption in just this one corner of the country.  The chemicals that are added to the fresh surface water comprise anywhere from .5 to 2 percent of the volume of that “frack” water, meaning 25,000 to 100,000 gallons of chemicals are introduced to the earth from just one shale gas drilling well – multiply that by 64,000 wells and you have a lot of dangerous chemicals. And that’s just the water pollution.

Each well requires 3 to 5 acres of land disturbance for each well pad, plus miles of roads and pipeline.  According to a new study, in just Pennsylvania, 60,000 to 150,000 acres of forest could be lost to the pipelines alone. Each drilling well also requires over 1,500 truck trips to service it – trucks burning dirty diesel fuel.  And now we learn, that all this new drilling is also inducing construction of new liquefied natural gas facilities (LNG facilities) intended to ship the gas to foreign countries for a higher price than can be had in the U.S.  In fact, according to a statement out of the U.S. Department of Energy, 10 percent of our daily consumption of natural gas has already been approved for shipment overseas with another 10 percent being decided upon within the next few months and likely to receive export approval.

Invasive drilling operations, pollution spills, laws that strip municipalities of their zoning authorities, and laws that force homeowners to allow drilling under their private lands are among the insults that U.S. residents are suffering in order to service the gas drilling industry.

Our children need the clean water, the fresh air, the healthy forests that we had as children – in fact, I think they deserve even better than we had as kids.  It is time for this country to make a genuine commitment to sustainable energy, sustainable development practices, and a healthy future for our kids.  Nature is a life sustaining gift passed down from generation to generation – let us be sure that our gift to future generations includes an energy path that will provide for all of their needs – the power they need to live a modern day life, but also the water, air and forests they need to live, grow and thrive.

What can you do?
The evidence against gas drilling grows every day.  The reason why legislators in Congress and a number of states are attempting to take action on this issue is because people are getting informed and speaking up.  So do all you can to stay connected to the issue and to take action whenever the opportunity arises.  A few key ways to speak up right now that will make a difference:

  • At the Federal level, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, The FRAC Act, which would remove the gas and oil industry’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, is under consideration. The US Congress will also be considering the BREATHE Act which would remove exemptions and ensure critical Clean Air Act provisions apply to gas drilling.  We need to tell our Congressmen and Senators we support these efforts to ensure our drinking water and air are protected from pollution by gas drilling.  Write your Congressman and Senators and urge them to sign on as co-sponsors of the FRAC and BREATHE acts.  
  • In Pennsylvania, new legislation has passed that strips municipalities of their right to control drilling, through zoning, in their communities.   The power to prevent drilling sites within 300 feet of a school, for example, has been taken from community officials.  Write your Pennsylvania legislator and tell them you oppose any steps that prevent a community from protecting themselves from gas drilling.  
  • The Delaware River basin continues to be frack free due to a moratorium in place that prohibits drilling unless and until the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) passes regulations that allow it.  This is setting important precedent for the country and ensuring the protection of the drinking water for over 15 million people, including those living in New York City and Philadelphia.  Help keep the pressure up and send your letter to the DRBC today urging them to keep the Delaware River and its watershed frac free.
  • Consider adding your family to the photo album of folks who want to be protected from gas drilling that will be shared with the Governors of NY, NJ, PA and DE, as well as the Army Corps Colonel who represents the President at the Delaware River Basin Commission  -- there is nothing more powerful than a picture.  Add your picture at