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