Shalefield Stories, a new report, shows fracking’s impacts in PA – and the need for action
Environment New Jersey
Trenton — With the new Delaware River Basin Commission Executive Director Steven Tambini announced yesterday and the impending retirement of current Executive Director Carol Collier, Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) and environmental allies called for the DRBC to make the temporary moratorium on fracking in the watershed permanent. Their call was strengthened through the release of Shalefield Stories, a new compilation of personal testimonies of families directly impacted by fracking throughout the Marcellus Shale region and beyond. The Commission has their first regularly scheduled meeting of 2014 today.
“One of the strongest positives of Carol Collier’s term was the moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed,” said Dan DeRosa, Environment New Jersey’s field organizer. “The Delaware River Basin Commission – and new director Steven Tambini – should make the temporary moratorium permanent.”
“These are not mom and pop backyard drilling operations. These are large scale industrial fracking operations that inject huge amounts of toxic water deep into the ground,” said Congressman Rush Holt (D-12). “There should be a moratorium in West Virginia, there should be a moratorium in Pennsylvania and there should be a fracking moratorium for the Delaware River watershed.”
Steven Tambini is a long-time resident of Burlington County, NJ where he brings 30 years of experience in water supply engineering and water resource planning, management and operations to the DRBC. He also will join the Commission as it faces its biggest challenge yet, with pressure from the oil and gas industry to open the watershed up to gas drilling.
The Delaware River Basin Commission is responsible for protecting the 13,000 square mile watershed, and the drinking water of over 15 million people. The meeting comes one month after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced plans to cut Pennsylvania’s funding support for the DRBC, which despite his urging, has continued to uphold the moratorium on gas drilling in the watershed.
The moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed has been in place since May 2010, although plans were made in November 2011 to put out regulations to open the watershed to gas drilling, but due to strong public pressure the area remains free from drilling and the moratorium in place.
“We are glad that the moratorium is still in place, protecting the drinking water for the 15 million people who depend on the Delaware River Basin. We are concerned that political pressure from Governors Corbett and Christie could open up the Delaware Watershed to fracking, threatening our open space and our drinking water. With the change in leadership at the Commission, the public should be concerned that billions of gallons of toxic waste could threaten the River that belongs to all of us, not the gas companies. The moratorium must be made permanent,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.
“With the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that mandates all members of Pennsylvania government — from the local level, to the regional to the state level — have an obligation to consider and protect the rights of present and future generations to pure water, clean air and a healthy environment, it is clear that permanent protection for the Delaware River watershed is the only way the DRBC and its Pennsylvania Commissioner can honor this obligation,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “We hope Mr. Tambini will recognize that as a public servant working to protect water resources in Pennsylvania, that he too is subject to this obligation in his new role as the head of the DRBC and make permanent the prohibition on shale gas development in our Delaware River watershed.”
Today’s event also included Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center’s release of Shalefield Stories, a report compiled by the grassroots group Friends of the Harmed, that outlines the stories of families impacted by fracking across the country. The report can be found online at: http://www.environmentnewjersey.org/reports/nje/shalefield-stories.
Residents next door in Pennsylvania recounted their stories of illness, water contamination, and damage to their livelihoods due to dirty drilling operations, which the organizations said that Shalefield Stories was the latest evidence for keeping fracking out of the Delaware River watershed.
“Given the staff transition and with every day new revelations as to how bad fracking is for water, the DRBC should fulfill its mission to protect the Delaware, a critical drinking water supply, and make permanent the temporary moratorium on fracking in the watershed,” said David Pringle, NJ Campaign Director, Clean Water Action.
People recalling their experiences with fracking damage in Shalefield Stories include:
· Judy Armstrong Stiles of Bradford County, Pa., who spoke of the barium and arsenic that was found in her drinking water, and then in her blood, after Chesapeake began drilling on her land;
· June Chappel of Washington County, Pa., who lived with a 15 million gallon fracking waste pit just 200 feet from her house.
“Behind the alarming numbers and the outline of fracking’s environmental impacts, there are real people whose lives have been gravely impacted by these polluting practices,” said DeRosa.
The people within the pages of Shalefield Stories are only a few of the many individuals and families directly impacted by fracking operations. In some cases, residents affected by fracking are no longer able to talk about their experiences because of gag orders contained in their legal settlements with the drilling operator. One tally called List of the Harmed shows more than 4,800 individuals adversely affected by oil and gas incidents.
One of the common themes running through Shalefield Stories is how people have become sick living on the frontlines of fracking. Those experiences are now being validated by health experts.
“The symptoms reported in Shalefield Stories, including rashes, nausea, respiratory issues, and stress, mirror very closely what our health care professions see in their examinations of residents and workers impacted by drilling operations here in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Jill Kriesky, associate director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “These stories are important in helping us to identify and address the steps needed to protect the health of individuals living near these sites.”
While Shalefield Stories was compiled by individual residents in Pennsylvania, there have also been similar environmental disasters in other fracking states, like Colorado, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.
“This semester, 2,000 Rutgers students have taken action to protect the Delaware River watershed from fracking and more will continue to join the tens of thousands of New Jerseyans that have already spoken out. The evidence against dangerous gas drilling has only grown stronger and public outcry has only grown louder over the last two and a half years,” said Olivia Harry, fracking coordinator, New Jersey PIRG Student Chapters.
“We thank the DRBC for their decision over two years ago to keep the temporary fracking moratorium, and we urge them to permanently keep fracking out of the Delaware River watershed,” said DeRosa.
Environment New Jersey is a state-wide citizen-based environmental group which advocates for clean air, clean water, and open spaces on behalf of our 20,000 citizen members.