Rally Asks NY State to Rescind Gas Drilling Moratorium

The 9-6-09 “Light Up The Delaware River Party” is one of the last chances you’ll have to be heard before the DRBC decides an issue that will impact your lives for as long as you live in The Basin. For those of us who remain, the future looks bleak.

According to  The Daily Star in Oneonta, NY, “A rally Sunday sponsored by supporters of natural-gas drilling in the area attracted hundreds of people to General Clinton Park in Bainbridge, according to organizers.”    An official attendance figure  was not available  “but…organizers parked about 400 cars.”

According to The Star Gazette,    “Dan Fitzsimmons, an organizer, said 871 vehicles parked for the event, many with two or more occupants.”

Uh oh.   Fifth grade angst is stopping my heart.

The  future health of the Delaware River Basin will  probably be  decided in a few short weeks.  The financial futures of our local producers hang in the balance.  The clean drinking water source for 15 million+  people is on the chopping block.  Our  neighbors in Dimock, PA and Pavilion, Wyoming are pleading  with us to wake up — to join hands with them.

But, as an organizer of   “The Light Up The Delaware River Party,”  my fifth grade refrain is,  “Will as many people come to my 9-6-09  party as showed up  at the Landowners’ shindig.”

I’m so pathetic I almost didn’t  publish The Star Gazette’s more flattering crowd assessment of the pro-drilling rally.

So what’s a grassroots  organizer to do?   What variety of factors motivated 1000-2000 people to rally for drilling and hydro fracking in  New York State when the EPA just reported, “… that initial investigations found 11 of 39 tested drinking water wells [Pavilion, Wyoming] were contaminated. Among the contaminants are toxics used in oil and gas production.”?

I’m flummoxed beyond words.  As Leni Santoro and I hand-delivered  Light Up The Delaware River Party invitations throughout the Delaware River Basin, we encountered two scenarios  over and over again:   (1)  most people in the Basin had not heard of gas drilling or hydraulic fracturing; and (2)  every single person  who heard about it from us for the first time was outraged and dumbstruck that drilling and hydro fracking are being seriously considered in The Basin.

People are moved by  threats they perceive  as  intimate and immediate.  Unfortunately  for pro-water advocates,  residents of New York and Pennsylvania face many threats — many of which seem more “immediate”  than the potential loss of their drinking water.   How will they pay their mortgages?  How will they pay their student loans?  Where’s their next paycheck coming from?

A while back, I wrote,  “Faced with famine, dwindling resources and invaders who carried contagious diseases, the inhabitants of  “Easter Island”  (Rapa Nui)  turned on one another and plundered the lands of those who were killed.   Their cultural totems were destroyed by civil wars and the people were reduced and enslaved….  In times of threat, we all reach for familiar comforts, tending to  turn our backs to the storm and cast worried glances at strangers.  So I ask myself, have our fears so crippled us that we can’t learn  the lessons of history?”

If gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing come to The Delaware River Basin as they have to Fort Worth, Texas,  Pavilion, Wyoming and  Dimock, Pennsylvania,  what power will we have   to stop them in New York State?  New York City has registered its  opposition to any threat against its water supply, but what  about those of us who live in the Upper Basin?   The same economic forces at work in Pennsylvania (the loss of 220,000 + industrial  jobs in five years and the destruction of small local  farms)  will  carry the  “Drill, baby, drill” anthem across  the Delaware River and into New York State.

Where will we plant our feet to stop them?

“The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 to take testimony on its proposed revisions to the draft docket for the application by Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC.  The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at PPL’s Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center in Hawley, Pa. The revised draft docket will be available for public review about 10 business days prior to the September 23 hearing. As before, there will also be an opportunity to submit comments in writing.  The earliest occasion on which the commission may act on the docket is at its next public meeting, scheduled for October 22, 2009.”

The 9-6-09  “Light Up The Delaware River Party”  is  one of  the  last chances you’ll have to be heard before the DRBC  decides an issue that will impact your lives for as long as you live in The Basin.  For those of us who remain, the future looks bleak.

Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.  It is.

Don’t  think sanity will prevail without your  voice.  It won’t.

Don’t think  pro-water advocates are exaggerating  the threat from drilling and hydro fracking.  It isn’t possible.

Don’t miss this chance to celebrate the works of the river and its people.  There won’t be many others.

Don’t leave  gas drilling policies  in the hands of drilling companies as the residents of  Wyoming and Texas and Dimock  did or you’ll be  left with the same  contaminated waters and worthless land as is their portion.

Stand up now.  Demand  that the DRBC  require an Environmental Impact  Statement and scientific studies of the cumulative impact of drilling and hydraulic fracturing on The Delaware River Basin.  Require a detailed explanation of which agencies will oversee contaminated waste water disposal.

Light up your portion of the  Delaware River.  Find out how to plan an event in your area.  Tell us what you’re planning and  invite others.  (Post your events at the “party location”  page even if it’s a “closed” family event.   The DRBC needs to know we’re alive and active.)  Don’t forget to email  photos of your event to  ljbucar@earthlink.net or  leni5s@yahoo.com.  They’ll be posted  on a map of The Basin and presented as a collage to the DRBC.

Come to the table before it’s barren.

5 thoughts on “Rally Asks NY State to Rescind Gas Drilling Moratorium”

  1. Let’s have fun and come down to the river with Liz and Leni, and don’t forget to tell your Senators and Congressperson to support the F.R.A.C. ACT!


  2. Yes, James! I’m planning to visit as many party sites as possible on the 6th, beginning in the early morning. I’ll be taking tea candles and flyers for any who still need them and then heading back to (probably) Cochecton or Milanville to light my candle at 7:30. A new BBQ caravan is in the works! Many others are working on ideas that haven’t been posted yet at Light Up The Delaware River Party site. We’re also considering a photo contest. Best, Liz

  3. Lots of awareness is needed,,,,,Good for you to get the word out~~
    That and sharp environmental lawyers!!

  4. I see one thing over and over again on this blog — a true lack of an open mind. You’ve made up your mind about gas drilling, despite much evidence (especially in western NYS and other areas inside and certainly outside the West) that it can live in harmony with the environment and local communities.

    Those thousands in upstate NY who rallied for gas drilling see more benefits than negatives, yet you have not even made the first attempt to understand their point of view or why they reached it.

    Instead, you’ve inferred that they’re insane idiots who care nothing for the land, just their wallets.

    Instead, you’ve taken the blindly narcissistic stance that “it’s not possible” that you and your fellow supporters might be guilty — or even capable — of exaggerating risks.

    Instead, you’ve decried the gas drilling industry’s propaganda (of which there is plenty) in favor of Earthworks’ propaganda: a press release that only hints at the fact that the EPA (1) has not yet determined the cause and source of the contaminated wells, and (2) only THREE of the 11 contaminated wells — out of 39 tested — had a toxin specific to fracking. How does that qualify for sounding a nationwide alarm, let alone the environmental catastrophe you’re constantly trying to whip your readers into a frenzy about?

    This is why your points — however salient a few of them are — are ignored and dismissed by the majority of homeowners in the area. Unlike the people you reached out to farther down the Delaware Valley, where gas drilling is likely never to come, most landowners in this area have done their homework and — untainted by the desire to hear only the facts that support a pre-set point of view — have come to a different, far less extreme conclusion.

    Yet I hear very little insulting, denigrating comments directed at the “other side” from them, despite a passion equal to yours. That comes from quiet confidence and faith, rather than the fear you promulgate. That comes from a respect for the sanity, rationality and dignity of their neighbors, even if they disagree.

    I and most other supporters of gas drilling are also supporters of strict government oversight and regulation — not to mention well-crafted leases — to ensure that the gas companies live up to their promises and that we and our neighbors are not harmed but only benefitted by this industry.

    We are all actively working to avoid the kind of environmental holocaust you relish describing, even though the fact remains that no catastrophe on the scale you fear here has ever been seen in the U.S.

    It’s your blog to do with as you please, and I will continue to read your thoughts with interest. But it’s time for you to understand that non-close-minded readers do see through the propaganda on both sides, and it would be a welcome change if you did, too.

  5. I am on the other side than “elb”, I absolutely believe that horizontal drilling / hydraulic fracturing into shale plays such as the Marcellus is inherently polluting and should not be allowed in sensitive watershed areas, especially those such as the NYC watershed area, and the Delaware River Basin’s Special Protected Waters, that serve the, in NYC’s case especially, unfiltered drinking water needs of more than 15 million people. This drilling / fracking, in economic terms alone, could cause NYC to lose it’s special Federal standing that permits the water for nine million people to be unfiltered. If a filtration plant is required, what would these people do in the two years or so it would take to build the plant? Would the plant be able to filter the water (not unless the F.R.A.C. Act is passed as it is currently written, which would force the Industry to disclose the chemicals)? Who would pay for the approximately $20 billion to build the plant?

    This is a huge issue that pits neighbor against neighbor, and the main reason why “elb’s” comments don’t make a lot of sense is because the landowning lessors have rushed headlong into signing leases. He, and they, may THINK that drilling can be done safely, but there is no evidence of this whatsoever. There have been no studies done by the EPA up until the one he mentions, and he is wrong to pooh pooh that study. Bucar provides a link to the ProPublica story in her essay.

    The story is huge because of a couple of things. First, Wyoming allowed Encana, the drilling company, to perform the tests on the 39 wells in question. The old fox guarding the henhouse type of relationship. Encana, to no one’s surprise, found no contamination in the 39 wells. The State of Wyoming accepted this finding, and announced that no contamination had occurred. The EPA was requested to perform tests by the unbelieving victims, and under Lisa Jackson’s leadership (instead of Bush/Cheney), the EPA stepped in. They found that 11 were contaminated, 3 with 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), all 11 with methane, and some other drinking water wells with 6 chemicals connected to the gas drilling industry. The testing is enormously expensive because the O&G Industry is not required, due to those inexplicable exemptions given in July of 2005, to list the chemicals it uses. Therefore, the EPA has to test for everything. If landowners who lease want to back up their environmental credentials, they better back the F.R.A.C. Act that is currently before Congress.

    That’s the problem with “elb’s” leasing landowners, as described by Bucar. They are rallying against the passage of this act. The O&G Industry needs these exemptions to drill the shale. Why? “Elb” and his friends need to step up to the plate on this.

    The EPA will do further tests to attempt to trace the source EXACTLY to migration from hydraulic fracturing. In the meanwhile, 999,999 fingers out of 1 million point to the drilling/fracking as the cause. In Dimock, PA, the PADEP found that the methane that migrated was ‘production’ gas, not the ‘shallow’ gas that drilling apologists always point to. Also, the DEP is in no position financially, to test for chemical migration. The bottom line is that whatever the exact source, production gas or shallow gas, it was A RESULT OF THE DRILLING/FRACKING. To deny this is absurd. Industry acts as if this is an aberration, but as Abrahm Lustgarten pointed out earlier this year, there have been 52 such cases documented in PA alone over the past 5 years, and that the PADEP now has a staff of one person solely dedicated to this type of contamination (which is far too little).

    Industry likes to point to the safety record of drilling over the past 60 years, and say that hydraulic fracturing is that old. The fact is, the new shale drilling and fracturing technology is about 15 years old, and has only exploded in use in the West in the past five or so years, especially after the Federal exemptions were granted. Evidence(events)of water contamination are mounting daily, but no studies have been done up until this recent EPA I referred to. In NYS, the DEC loves to state that there are no documented cases of contamination, and Earthjustice, through a Freedom of Information request, recently proved that NYS has not performed one study or report on this. They don’t bother to analyze any records of the wells. How can they find anything if they don’t bother to look?

    Back to the fact that the new technology and drilling bears little relationship to the pre-1990’s drilling. The new wells are between a factor of 50 to 100 times greater than those previous ones in relation to water usage, toxic waste water produced, truck traffic and so forth. People who continue to write or speak that these wells are comparable are just not telling the truth. They might as well say that $50,000 equals $2.5 million or $5 million, or that two acres equals 100 to 200 acres. They don’t.

    The lessor landowner’s rushed to sign despite the lack of cumulative impact studies, or before any individual studies were performed. They rushed in not knowing whether there should be restrictions as to how many wells should be allowed to be drilled, and where wells might be placed. They rushed to sign before adequate restrictions were in place regarding noise, deforestation and so forth, and they rushed to sign even though the extraction industry is exempt from the Federal Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air, and Right to Know Acts, among others. This is a major reason why the landowner’s to whom “elb” refers lack credibility.

    The fact is that each side is trying to make a case for, or against drilling/fracking in our watersheds. Hopefully, we are all dealing with information that is thoughtful and real, and presenting it in a respectful way.

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