The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Public Interest Groups to President Obama and Delaware River Basin Commissioners: Don't Freeze the Public Out of Historic Fracking Decision


Today a coalition of 36 environmental, consumer and community organizations urged the Delaware River Basin Commission to reconsider its recent decision to postpone a special meeting to decide whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware River Basin. Originally scheduled for October 21, the commission announced last week it would instead hold the vote on November 21, the week of Thanksgiving. In a letter to the commission, groups opposed the new date because it will inhibit public participation in this historic decision. If draft natural gas fracking regulations are approved, up to 20,000 fracking wells could be drilled near the Delaware River, a source of drinking water for 15 million Americans.

"Moving the meeting to the week of a major national holiday is at best an oversight, and at worst, an attempt to curtail public involvement in an issue that affects millions of Americans," said Jim Walsh, eastern region director for Food & Water Watch. "The commission should demonstrate its commitment to the democratic process by rescheduling the vote to take place after the holiday season."

"The members of the Delaware River Basin Commission are responsible for the careful management of the water supply for over 15 million Americans, and more and more people are learning about this," added Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum. "We are asking the commission members to stand with us and the communities of the basin by not allowing drilling and fracking to commence while scientists and technicians are trying to get a handle on the dangerous practices employed for shale gas extraction. We are asking them to stop and listen to the public before it is too late. Don't drill the Delaware."

Comprised of representatives for the Obama administration, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the Delaware River Basin Commission is a federal and multi-state regulatory body responsible for protecting the integrity of the Delaware River Basin.

"The public has a right to be present for this critical Delaware River Basin Commission decision and deserves a reasonable date that does not deny them their opportunity to do so," said Riverkeeper Watershed Program Director Kate Hudson. "The Delaware River Basin Commission's gas drilling regulations would pose a major threat to the New York City Watershed, as the basin area currently provides 50 percent of the clean, unfiltered drinking water that nine million New Yorkers depend on daily."

"The Delaware River Basin Commission should delay any meeting on the adoption of the natural gas fracking regulations until the public has adequate time to review and comment on any changes. We believe it is wrong to try to rush these rules through without proper scrutiny and appropriate public input," added New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

Fracking relies on large quantities of water and a toxic cocktail of chemicals to extract natural gas from underground rock formations. To date, over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites across the United States. Over the past two years, ten major studies by scientists, policy makers, investigative journalists and public interest groups have linked the process to significant environmental and public health problems such as degraded water quality, exposure to radioactivity and methane and benzene pollution, among others.

"With an extraordinary volume of evidence continuing to mount regarding the myriad reasons to ban fracking, it is sickening and beyond logic that the Delaware River Basin Commission, charged with protecting one of the most valuable water supplies on earth, proposes to open the gates to this risky, intense and intrinsically contaminating industrial activity," said Joe Levine, co-founder of DCS and NYH20.

While lax regulation of fracking and technological advances have prompted some industry insiders to promote the process as a "game changer," the long-term economic promises of fracking have been called into question in recent months. An analysis of the process by the United States Geological Survey forced the U.S. Department of Energy to lower its estimated reserves of gas in the Marcellus Shale by 80 percent. In August New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent subpoenas to Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, Goodrich Petroleum and Chesapeake Energy, four of the nation's largest energy companies, to determine if they are overstating their natural gas production. This followed a New York Times investigation, which found that the industry is over-predicting gas forecasts.

"Keeping the public in the dark on what the commission will be voting on, and scheduling that vote during the holidays, whether by intent or inattention, is wrong," said David Pringle, campaign director for the NJ Environmental Federation. "President Obama and Governor Christie need to do right by New Jersey and delay this vote until the public can determine for themselves whether any changes to the current draft rules provide the protections environmentalists and the Christie Administration say the current draft does not."

"Two years ago when seventeen cows died in agony in Louisiana within one hour of consuming frack water, which Chesapeake Energy claimed was 99 percent water and only 1 percent fracking chemicals, we all learned just how deadly fracking fluids really are. The public has the right to be heard on such a deadly process--one that is making people sick and killing animals in over seven states right now, including Pennsylvania," added Iris Marie Bloom founder and director of Protecting Our Waters.

Opposition to the controversial practice is gaining momentum across the U.S., especially in the Northeast. To date, over 100 municipalities in the U.S. have taken action against fracking.

"When the time was moved for the October's meeting to the morning, the reason was a scheduling conflict at the War Memorial. Does that scheduling conflict still exist?" asked B. Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability. "This timing is just another hurdle to public participation."

"No American should have to worry about the quality of their drinking water, or be on the hook for the uncounted billions that will be necessary to repair infrastructure, mitigate health impacts and clean up the hundreds of environmental accidents that will be part and parcel of fracking," said Jill Wiener of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

The coalition of groups signed signed-on to the letter include: Basha Kill Area Association; Bergen CC Environmental Club; Bayshore Regional Watershed Council; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy; Berks Gas Truth; Catskill Mountain Keeper; Clean Ocean Action; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; East Brunswick Congregational Church; Food & Water Watch; Friends of Sustainable Sidney; Fly Creek & Cooperstown; Franciscan Response to Fracking--New Jersey Chapter; Grey Panthers NYC Network; Holy Name Province Justice Peace and Integration of Creation Directorate; Jersey Shore Group, Sierra Club; Light Alliance Foundation, Inc.; Neighbors of the Onondanga Nation; NJ Environment Federation; NJ Friends of Cleanwater; NJ Sierra Club; New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners; NYH20; Otsego 2000; Otsego Neighbors; Otisco Lake Preservation Association; Pennsylvania Brotherhood, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, IBT; Protecting Our Waters; Reach Out America; Riverkeeper, Inc.; Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development; Save Plumstead; Sierra Club Moshannon Group; Transition Newton; United for Action.

The letter to the Delaware River Basin Commission can be read here.

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