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Philadelphia City Council Unanimously Passed Pro-moratorium Resolution Thursday; Pressing DRBC to Extend Deadline, Hold Hearing in Philadelphia

January 27, 2011

Statement from Iris Marie Bloom
Director, Protecting Our Waters

Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed the pro-moratorium Resolution on Marcellus Shale Drilling Environmental and Economic Impacts today, after receiving “tons” of letters and listening to strong testimony from about ten citizens who braved the wild weather to speak out.  Here is a shout-out to you, to Councilman Jones, and to all of City Council.

Jerry Silberman, Dr. Poune Saberi, Ann Dixon, Mark Schmerling, Janet Fishman, Norma Van Dyke, and a wonderful spokesperson for Delaware Riverkeeper Network were among those who testified in person or had testimony read; we will post statements on our website.  Testimony addressed human health impacts, long-term environmental impacts, risks to Philadelphia’s drinking water; corruption / conflicts of interest among officials who are supposed to protect the public good; negative economic impacts, the need for sustainable energy investment rather than a “bridge to nowhere,” and the troublesome revolving door between government, industry, and regulators.

Councilman Jones is immediately sending a letter, TODAY, to the Delaware River Basin Commission.  He asks that the entire report “be made part of the record of public comment” on DRBC’s proposed gas drilling regulations.  That includes the entire set of Recommendations, beginning with #1, which states:

“1. There must be no drilling, or projects related to gas drilling (including exploratory wells and water withdrawals), permitted in the Delaware River watershed until both the EPA hydraulic fracturing risks study and the cumulative impact studies specific to the Delaware River Basin are completed, assessed, and publicly debated.”

Councilman Jones’ letter today to the DRBC further emphasizes, “The recommendations also call for a longer public comment process on your proposed regulations and ask for more public hearings, including one in Philadelphia.”  This request is based on a specific Recommendation included in the resolution passed today by the full Council.  Read it carefully; this recommendation urges a three-year public comment process, not a three-month public comment process, on fracking rules in our watershed (it’s estimated that the EPA study will take about two years):

Agency-specific Recommendation #4
“4. When the DRBC regulations are released they should be subject to a comprehensive public comment process, which should extend for a year after the EPA study and cumulative impact studies are complete to inform the public debate; including hearings in Philadelphia.”

In short, Philadelphia City Council has weighed in strongly both on the side of clean water and on the side of democracy.  Kudos to Council for understanding the importance of protecting our watershed, state, and region from an industry which keeps its chemicals secret while poisoning water and air in many states.  The industry’s Marcellus Shale Coalition has already complained about Philadelphia City Council’s report. Among other evidence-based reporting, the report refers to scientific evidence that gas drilling degrades water quality even without accidents or spills; and to evidence that cradle to grave extraction of natural gas is as dirty as, or much dirtier than, coal in terms of climate impacts — information the industry would much rather sweep continually under the rug.

The entire set of recommendations may be found on protectingourwaters.com — this link takes you right there: https://protectingourwaters.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/final-recommendations-marcellus-shale-report-city-council-of-philadelphia%E2%80%99s-joint-committees-on-transportation-and-public-utilities-and-the-environment-september-28-2010/

The action has intellectual, moral and political weight and influence, but is not legally binding on the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which answers to the governors of four states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware — and the federal government.

So, the real work to protect our water and make democracy work begins now.  With your help, we’ve laid a strong foundation.

This is a great time to write letters to the editor, both applauding this important resolution and alerting the general public that unless the DRBC extends their outrageously short public comment period, we have only between now and March 16th to weigh in on fracking rules in the Delaware River Basin.  The drilling moratorium may be lifted after March 16th unless there is an absolutely massive public outcry.

We are grateful for everything you do to make your own voice heard on this issue.
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