An Appeal from Josh Fox and Bill McKibben to Vice President Joe Biden to intervene on behalf of the Delaware River and make his voice heard against fracking the Delaware.
TO: Vice President Joe Biden
President Barack Obama
Jo Ellen Darcy, Army Corps of Engineers for President Obama
Governor Jack Markell
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden
Nancy Sutlley, Council on Environmental Quality
Dear Vice President Biden-
DON’T FRACK THE DELAWARE
We respect your integrity, your strength, your leadership and most of all your environmental record.
I am writing to urge you to unequivocally reject the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) proposal to allow gas drilling within the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC received 69,800 public comments on their proposed draft regulations which were overwhelmingly against fracking. They have ignored them and in the process ignored the democratic process. Commissioners who vote to allow fracking are on the wrong side of history and will be held accountable.
Hydraulic Fracturing – or Fracking – is a highly dangerous method of drilling for natural gas that risks the safety of our air, water, and food, and threatens the health of our families, communities, and environment and will undoubtedly put into jeopardy these critical considerations in the Delaware River Basin. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy Science Advisory Board’s own Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production recently recommended “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling. . .”
I urge you to say no to fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The charter of the DRBC calls for it to protect water quality in the basin, and clearly calls for nothing else to be considered above this mandate. There has been more than sufficient evidence, through widely documented incidents of contamination, to overwhelmingly convince any individual willing to look at the facts that a practice as potentially catastrophic as hydraulic fracturing should not be considered in a such sensitive area, the drinking water supply for 15.6 million people.
Do not think that a yes vote on these regulations will go unnoticed or unchallenged in the media or in the public sphere. The New York Times, Pro-Publica, and HBO’s GASLAND 2, to name a few media sources will report on fracking in the watershed and organizations with a very wide reach such as 350.org, Democracy for America, NRDC, Environmental Working Group, Catskill MountainKeeper, Delaware RiverKeeper and literally hundreds of others will be extremely vocal about any drilling allowed in the Delaware River Basin. If the regulations pass and the river basin is industrialized beyond recognition and contaminated, it will be forever the legacy of those who voted yes.
This watershed provides drinking water for more than 15 million people, delivering 1,803 million gallons of water every day to public water supplies. That’s about 5% of the nation’s population – including New York City and Philadelphia – who are depending on this relatively small watershed for safe drinking water every day. From massive water withdrawals to leaks and spills of toxics-laden frack fluid to the generation of millions of gallons of wastewater – sometimes laced with radioactive substances – the for gas drilling to pollute our water is grave. Specifically, and documented in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Hazen and Sawyer Report, slick water horizontal hydraulic fracturing uses around 350,000-400,000 pounds of chemicals per well, many of these extremely toxic and cancer causing. To allow such obviously carcinogenic and dangerous activity near the sole or primary drinking water source for millions of Americans is nothing short of an invitation to disaster.
Moreover, the Delaware River Basin is vital to our ecology and quality of life. Its national park recreation areas are so treasured that 5.4 million visitors come each year to hike, camp, boat, or swim. Drinking water for millions, habitat for wildlife, and recreation for millions: one is hard-pressed to find meaning in the DOE subcommittee’s phrase “unique and or sensitive areas” if you do not apply it to the Delaware River Basin. With this clear and defining policy statement, how could one actually move forward to drill and inject so much chemically laden water into such a sensitive and vital American Treasure?
Moreover, oil and gas industry claims that drilling will aid economic recovery are patently false. In fact, drilling will damage the Basin’s existing economic value. The value of its water supply alone has recently been calculated by a University of Delaware study at $3,767,000 in annual economic value. Looking at the many aspects of economic value that the River provides, this study concludes that “[t]he Delaware Basin contributes close to $22 billion in annual market/non-market value to the regional economy…” Much of that value derives from forests, water supply and high water quality. These are the very assets at risk if natural gas development moves ahead in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, located in the Upper and Middle Delaware River Watershed. More so, many families in Pennsylvania, are already finding that after contamination, the value of their homes has dropped precipitously to what it once was. This is not the economic benefit that, during such a time of economic hardship, should be even be considered.
Surely you have noticed that the only contingents interested in pushing forward with fracking are ones that stand to benefit financially, who consistently dismiss the economic hardships and environmental degradation caused by the collateral damage incurred from this risky practice. This sort of omission and faulty economic analysis leaves the greater public liable for the true costs of contamination in numerous, and painful ways. Giving a yes vote to something that could potentially harm the general public in such a way would be nothing short of granting license to harm millions of Americans for the economic prosperity of a few.
There is an out, just as New York has urged no drilling in its watersheds which serve huge populations (the watersheds for New York City and Syracuse) the Obama Administration and the state of Delaware can vote to disallow fracking in the Delaware river basin which also serves a huge number of people with drinking water.
Currently New York Attorney General has filed suit against the commission for failing in its obligation to complete a cumulative impact study of hydrofracking on the river basin, which is required of the commission by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This means that the DRBC would be violating the law in allowing gas drilling regulations. We urge you to reject all drilling in the river basin flat out, but, at very least, the DRBC is required to do a multi-year cumulative impact study, which would truly assess the impact on the river basin, by federal law.
I strongly urge you to reject the proposed regulations to drill and call on you to protect the Delaware River Basin from fracked gas drilling. Please stand with this National Wild and Scenic River, its communities and habitats, and the more than 15 million people who rely on the Delaware for their water. To do otherwise could be catastrophic, and would surely cement your historic decision to reflect alignment with the polluting fossil fuel industry for generations to come. We voted you into office to serve and protect all of the people, not just the few who wish to profit at all costs.
Please make sure the DRBC votes no on the proposed regulations and insist on a ban in this fragile, scenic, historic, and critical watershed that serves millions of Americans.