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Groups Press Susquehanna River Basin Commission for Moratorium on Water Withdrawals for Fracking

February 16, 2012
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For Immediate Release

Contact:  Nathan Sooy  c 717-585-2700 nsooy@cleanwater.org
                       Central PA Campaign Organizer, Clean Water Action

———__—–Iris Marie Bloom c 215.840.6489 protectingourwaters@gmail.com
                       Director, Protecting Our Waters

Groups Press Susquehanna River Basin Commission for Moratorium on Water Withdrawals for Fracking

SRBC has “Legal obligation to follow the science and moral obligation to protect the earth,” (Rabbi Mordechai Liebling in SRBC Testimony)

Harrisburg: Today the Susquehanna River Basin Commission meets at 2:30 pm in Room 8 E-B in the East Wing at the Capitol to hear testimony from public health advocates, environmental groups and citizens concerned about clean water, clean air, climate damage and other acute and cumulative impacts from high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, the new combination of technologies collectively referred to as “fracking.”  The groups call for an immediate moratorium on permits for fracking water withdrawals.

Opponents of the SRBC water withdrawals will gather today at 1:30 pm in Room 8 E-B in the East Wing at the Capitol Building prior to the 2:30 pm hearing. The SRBC heard over two dozen opponents of the water withdrawals testify in favor of a moratorium on permits at a hearing in Wilkes-Barre on December 15th, followed by an extraordinary and dramatic scene during which the SRBC delegates voted hastily and inaudibly to approve the withdrawals — approximately 29 billion gallons of permanent, consumptive water withdrawals for fracking over four years — while opponents chanted a poem with the refrain, “We honor the river, we honor our lives.” Several groups including Earthworks and Sierra Club issued a legal challenge to the proceeding, resulting in SRBC allowing the second hearing on the water withdrawals today and calling for a vote on the water withdrawals in March.

Clean Water Action, Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Gas Truth, Protecting Our Waters, Earthworks, Pennsylvania Sierra Club and other groups are joining together in a “broad and broadening coalition,” according to Iris Marie Bloom, to protect the Susquehanna River watershed. “The problem here is not just fracturing, but a fractured process in which the consumptive use and permanent poisoning of 29 billion more gallons of Susquehanna Basin water would be approved with absolutely no plan to deal with the resulting toxic flowback wastewater, the sickening air emissions from compressor stations, frack pits and truck traffic; the negative impact on climate, and the escalating human and animal health problems,” said Bloom. The Pennsylvania Council of Churches posted the call for a moratorium on water withdrawals on its website: http://pachurchesadvocacy.org/weblog/?p=10098.

“We call for an immediate moratorium on water withdrawals from the Susquehanna River,” said Nathan Sooy, Central Pennsylvania Campaign Organizer for Clean Water Action. “The SRBC is charged with being the steward of our Susquehanna. The SRBC has not served the interests of the people of the Susquehanna. Rather, they have followed the interests of the oil and gas companies.”

The groups call on the SRBC to stop issuing water withdrawal permits at least until they have:

  1. Developed a Comprehensive Plan.The Commission must develop and launch a comprehensive plan based on sound science and the consideration of a range of impacts (e.g., on drinking water supplies, wildlife, and ecosystem health). As indicated in Article 14.1, a comprehensive plan must also consider the specific effects on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. SRBC should not issue more permits for water withdrawals or gas development-related projects until a comprehensive plan is completed.
  2. Respected Joint Authority between the States. SRBC should delay final adoption of its proposed regulations and not issue any more permits for water withdrawals until the work of the Maryland moratorium commission and New York’s environmental review process are complete. On the basis of joint authority, the resulting assessment of gas impacts and the regulations necessary to prevent them will need to be integrated into, and be the primary basis for, the Commission’s framework for decisionmaking.
  3. Increased Transparency and Opportunities for Public Participation.  As a public agency whose members are appointed by State Governors (i.e., elected officials), SRBC must be responsive to the concerns of residents across the Basin. Doing so will ensure public confidence in the Commission’s commitment to its mandate and the sound management of public water resources. The Commission can support this process and gain public confidence in a variety of ways, including
  4. FULL DISCLOSURE: Make more information available to the public on the SRBC’s website.
  5. BRING THE PUBLIC TO THE TABLE: Establish a Citizens Advisory Council.
  6. NO BACK DOOR DEALS: Allow the public to review and comment on the proposed revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the SRBC and the DEP.

BACKGROUND: In public testimony at the SRBC hearing in Wilkes-Barre on December 15th, 2011, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling summed up the concerns of those present when he said that the SRBC has a “legal obligation to follow the science and a moral obligation to protect the earth.” Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks and Thomas Au of Pennsylvania Sierra Club called for a moratorium on water withdrawals based on the grounds listed above. The Reverend Leah Schade called for a moratorium to protect human health and future generations. The Mayor of Betterton, MD sent a letter opposing the water withdrawal permits based on the cumulative impacts on downstream residents throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

Don Williams of Wyoming Valley, who identified himself as working for a large international law firm and also as a supporter of American Rivers, said, “When you degrade a part of the whole, you degrade the whole.” Fred Murray pointed out that attempts to protect striped bass from the devastation caused by pesticides and herbicides is coming ’35 years too late,’ and urged the SRBC not to repeat the cycle of destruction. Dean Marshall said we are “hogs for energy,” and that it would be a terrible waste to approve 8 billion more gallons of water per year for fracking because the U.S. doesn’t need methane gas for domestic energy use. Scott Cannon said “this industry is just like the tobacco industry, telling lies in an attempt to cover up water contamination, blowouts, illegal dumping and truck accidents,” which he included among the everyday destructive impacts from all phases of fracking.

The Susquehanna River provides 90 percent of all the freshwater to the upper half of the Chesapeake Bay, and 50 percent of the freshwater to the entire bay, according to Susan Q. Stranahan, author of Susquehanna: River of Dreams (1993: Johns Hopkins). The Chesapeake Bay is already crtically endangered due to agribusiness and farming practices, pesticide and fertilizer use on lawns, runoff from roads, human population growth and destruction of habitat, wetlands, and protective forested buffers.
Chemicals used in fracking include carcinogens (chemicals which cause cancer), neurotoxins (chemicals which damage the human brain and nervous system, with greatest damage to fetal development, infants and young children), endocrine disruptors (chemicals which mimic or damage hormones, causing a wide variety of damage ranging from stillbirths and reproductive failures to intersex fish and male mammals which carry eggs in their testicles instead of sperm), and biocides (chemicals which kill living organisms). In addition, fracking flowback contains radioactive materials such as Radium 226; volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) such as benzene and toluene, which damage human health in the parts per billion; and heavy metals, such as arsenic. For more scientific information visit http://psehealthyenergy.org/

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5 Comments
  1. February 16, 2012 12:02 pm

    Good work,all. Courage in Harrisburg today. If SRBC goes ahead with authorizing water withdrawals, I hope there is some basis in the federal law whereby they can be challenged and enjoined from doing so until the legal challenge has been heard in a court of law.

  2. rik "snakebite"sherry permalink
    February 16, 2012 12:08 pm

    I have done the full length of the river in a canoe & think it’s a crime to let then take clean water out to poison and throw back at us just to make a few rich B*^$T #(@s even richer at our expense! STOP IT NOW!!!! Snakebite

  3. February 16, 2012 3:49 pm

    nothing will stop this but putting our bodies on the line. in front of trucks, in front of bulldozers, in front of rigs, in to the face of the faceless. CHK energy is doing a meet & cheat tonight in my upstate ny neighborhood. they have bought albany, they have bought our DEC too. BS talks and walks and hands out money untill WE stop them all.

  4. Chris Thompson permalink
    February 23, 2012 10:28 pm

    I am at a loss of words. This river has been a part of my entire life here. As it has been for my ancestors. This river has supported life here since it has been inhabited. Now she is in trouble. For ten thousand years and probably more she has supported the human race. Now we need to support her, to save her from this irreversable damage. We cannot afford to lose her!

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  1. Quick Action Alert: Protect the Susquehanna with Written Comment by February 27th « Protecting Our Waters

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