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January 13, 2012

For Immediate Release

January 13, 2012

Contact: Ana Tinsly, Frack Action/Water Defense, 646-331-4765
Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters 215-840-6489

Ask EPA Administrator to Intervene in Dimock Water Disaster

(Philadelphia, PA) In what has become a pivotal showdown in the national controversy over the safety of fracking, Dimock, PA gas drilling victims joined advocates in calling on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to intervene in a public health scandal that has left more than a dozen families without access to safe drinking water. Administrator Jackson was participating in a Town Hall forum in Philadelphia, 3 hours away from Dimock, where affected families’ water was contaminated by Cabot’s gas drilling in 2008.

The families have been left without a reliable source of water since last November, when the PA DEP allowed Cabot Oil and Gas, the company that was at fault for the contamination, to stop its weekly shipments of fresh water. Affected residents have complained of health problems after bathing in and drinking the water, which contains methane gas, heavy metals, radioactive material, and toxic chemicals such as ethylene glycol—otherwise known as antifreeze.

The Pennsylvania DEP had previously ordered Cabot to provide regular deliveries of replacement water to the affected residents, and planned the construction of a water pipeline from a nearby town, but later scrapped the pipeline plans during the transition to Governor Tom Corbett’s administration. Corbett received $1.6 million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to Common Cause PA.

Dimock has received national attention from high-profile advocates, including Gasland Director Josh Fox, Actor Mark Ruffalo, Mayor of Binghamton Matt Ryan, and environmental groups including Frack Action and Water Defense, which helped coordinate emergency water deliveries. EPA Region 3 began further investigating the affected well water in Dimock in mid-December 2011. On January 6th, EPA Region 3 officials told Dimock residents that the EPA would provide safe drinking water, only to publicly back away from its pledge the day after.

“You can’t be playing with people lives like that, said Dimock resident Craig Sautner. “You can’t get our hopes up like this and dash them to pieces within a day. It’s like a roller coaster ride, and it’s time that this ride stopped. Cabot Oil and Gas took away our water and we want it back. People shouldn’t be without access to clean drinking water in their own homes. It’s time that they were held accountable for their actions. The EPA has a right and a responsibility to step in when it’s clear that the PA DEP has reneged on its duty to protect our rights as citizens.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been prohibited from regulating hydraulic fracturing because of loopholes for the gas industry, but earlier this year EPA Administrator Jackson vowed before Congress that “EPA will step in to protect local residents if a driller jeopardizes clean water and the state government does not act.” In calling on the EPA to intervene, advocates cited a recent incident in which Mr. Sautner was threatened with arrest by the DEP, simply for calling the agency to ask for help. Dimock residents have also accused local officials of collusion with industry, citing the rejection of a mutual aid agreement proposed by Binghamton, NY Mayor Matt Ryan, who attempted to deliver water to the affected residents. Township supervisors of Dimock rejected the offer after a meeting with Cabot officials and a pro-industry advocacy group, in an apparent violation of Pennsylvania ethics laws.

“We need the EPA to hold Cabot Oil and Gas accountable and continue the water delivery to Dimock,” said Josh Fox. “And we need the EPA to join us in asking that Governor Tom Corbett and the PA DEP be investigated by the PA Inspector General for corruption and violation of the state constitution. A thorough, in-depth scientific investigation must take place, similar to the one in Pavillion, Wyoming that has been so rigorous and revealing. And it is crucial that the families immediately receive replacement water as this investigation is taking place as is their right as Pennsylvanians and as Americans.”

“Once again we are left to guess what sort of political shenanigans were pulled to deny the folks of Dimock clean drinking water, said Mark Ruffalo, founder of Water Defense. “This particular Penn State Football game happens to be using American families and their right to clean water as their football. Truth, like fracking fluid, has a way of finding its way to the surface. History will not be kind to elected officials who choose to side with corporate interests over the health and well being of the constituents they are supposed to protect.”

“We applaud EPA’s increased involvement, but it’s not enough,” said Iris Marie Bloom, Executive Director of Protecting our Waters, “We are horrified that families in Pennsylvania are told that water with toluene, phthalates, naphthalene, ethylene glycol, strontium and uranium is safe to drink. DEP has fallen so far short of their basic responsibility that EPA must step in immediately to provide clean safe water.”

“Pennsylvania clearly has failed its citizens, and put the profits of a powerful industry before the health and safety of ordinary people. Carter Road in Dimock should be considered a disaster area, and residents impacted by fracking should receive immediate assistance. Instead, the Pennsylvania DEP has threatened residents with arrest simply for seeking aid.  The case for EPA intervention in Pennsylvania is indisputable and urgent, as is the need for an investigation by the PA Inspector General,” said Claire Sandberg, Executive Director of Frack Action.

“The natural gas industry has destroyed the drinking water and by extension, the quality of life for these families in Dimock,” said Charlie Kratovil, an organizer for Food & Water Watch. “We call on the EPA to do what’s right and to ensure that all residents of Dimock have access to safe, clean, affordable water.”

Protecting Our Waters Associate Director Alex Allen said, “Water is a fundamental human right.”

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