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Public Comment Philadelphia City Council Jan 27, 2011 from Iris Marie Bloom; Protecting Our Waters Director

January 27, 2011

City Council Testimony:  Protecting Our Waters

Ban Shale Gas Drilling in Delaware River Watershed

Expand Citizen Participation in DRBC Process

DRBC: Drop March 16th deadline; Add Philadelphia Hearing

From: Iris Marie Bloom

Philadelphia PA 19143

January 27, 2011

Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, and all of you in City Council who have taken leadership to protect our water, air, and public health, I commend you.  Thank you for your steadfast courage; we are going to need more of that very soon.

Due to the inability of federal or state regulators to properly regulate this industry, the chemicals used in fracking continue to be kept secret, violating the public’s right to know.  The human health impacts from shale gas drilling out West and here in Pennsylvania are mounting.  Last year on September 11th, Jose Lara, a worker who was exposed to fracking chemicals while spray washing containers that held them, died at the age of 42.  Two months later, Chris Mobaldi of Garfield County Colorado, who had been sickened by intensive exposure to gas drilling fumes,  died from a rare pituitary tumor.  In both cases, the dying individual, their families, and their family physician believe the cause was exposure to chemicals from shale gas drilling.  In a moment I will briefly describe many families in Pennsylvania badly stricken by impacts from gas drilling.  But first, a comment about corruption and conflicts of interest which have made this terrible state of affairs possible.

Members of Council, you stand uncorrupted.  To my knowledge, unlike Dick Cheney, none of you was a former Halliburton CEO; unlike Governor Corbett, none of you have taken $1.2 million from drilling companies; unlike former governor Tom Ridge, none of you have a $900,000 lobbying contract with the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Pennsylvania is a place, and 2011 a time, in which the revolving door between government, industry and regulators spins faster and faster.  Last month, a judge cancelled an extremely important hearing at which scientific evidence arguing against drilling test wells OR production wells anywhere in the Delaware River watershed would have been authoritatively presented.  This month, it turns out that judge’s law firm is a MEMBER of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the industry group which lobbies in favor of unregulated, untaxed, unimpeded drilling!  In short, the number one reason that real scientists, such as Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences and Temple University’s Dr. Michel Boufadel, such as Cornell University’s Dr. Howarth and Dr. Ingraffea, don’t get heard is because big money talks, and the public officials who are supposed to protect us listen to big money instead of little people, instead of science, instead of the public interest.

Therefore we ask of you, City Council, that you pass this resolution resoundingly, and then you do something even more important.  You don’t let these beautiful principles, these important intentions, sit around on a piece of paper.  You use this resolution which lays the groundwork for you to fight for Philadelphia’s drinking water, for rivers and streams, for long-term health of people and the long-term health of our economy, which precludes shale gas drilling.  Please, as soon as it is passed, send this resolution to the DRBC and demand they drop their outrageously short March 16th deadline for public comment on fracking regulations in the Delaware River basin.  Even more importantly, demand that they hold a hearing downriver, here in Philadelphia, to make it possible for the first time for people from a large population center to make our voices heard through direct testimony about our water, air, and public health.  You know we can’t afford to pay to make our ecosystem whole again once it is degraded and poisoned.

City Council, if the DRBC ignores this powerful Resolution you pass today, we urge you to hold your own hearing for the City of Philadelphia so that people downriver can testify about the most important environmental and public health issue of our time before it is too late.  You can record the testimony, and send it to the DRBC as formal comment.

THANK YOU for considering this special request.  In closing, an excerpt from a letter from Mark Schmerling, Philadelphia photojournalist who could not be here today:

“It is shocking that our elected officials have let this predatory industry into my beloved state. I challenge you to show me a more precious resource than pure groundwater.

I’ve seen the lines of trucks [which] have invaded these rural areas, the menacing drill rigs and pads. I’ve met individuals whose blood contains phenol and benzene from living near compressor stations. I’ve witnessed the awful chemical stench from one such station, just part of the immense infrastructure that is turning some of our Edens into wastelands.

I’ve met landowners whose cattle have died and/or delivered still-born calves, [after cows] drank water contaminated by drilling. Arsenic and other heavy metals have infiltrated drinking water wells and water used by cattle. Surviving beef cattle eat, but don’t gain the normal weight. I’ve seen black “water” in a family’s toilet tank— water which one Pa. DEP representative didn’t think was tainted.”

Council, as you know, tainted gas drilling waste has already been dumped – 3.6 million barrels of it – into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams in the early phase of gas drilling, including 44,000 gallons of waste dumped illegally into Neshaminy Creek outside Philadelphia.  We count on you, the uncorrupted public servants, to hold the line, pass this resolution, stand up and fight for our watershed, and make sure the DRBC allows Philadelphia’s voices to be directly heard.

Thank you.

Submitted to Philadelphia City Council as testimony in favor of Resolution #100864

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