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Pennsylvanians Demand Senators Declare Independence from Fracking

Energy

Berks Gas Truth

A week after millions of Americans celebrated our nation’s independence, Pennsylvanians held “Independence from Fracking” rallies outside key state senator’s offices, including Sen. Browne.

The rallies, coordinated by local citizens and statewide environmental groups, highlighted key legislators’ continued opposition to a moratorium on fracking, despite growing support in the Commonwealth. There were rallies outside the offices of Pennsylvania Sen. Baker (R-Wayne), Sen. Browne (R-Lehigh), Sen. Farnese (D-Philadelphia), Sen. Kasunic (D-Fayette), Sen. McIlhinney (R-Bucks), Sen. Scarnati (R-Jefferson & Tioga), Sen. Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Sen. White (R-Westmoreland).

Organizers also held a thank you rally outside Sen. Dinniman’s (D-Chester) office, who signed on in support the day before the “Independence from Fracking” day of action.

“Every day that passes, more Pennsylvanians are impacted as fracking continues to ravage our beautiful state,” said Adam Garber, PennEnvironment field director. “It’s time for our senators to stand up and put people’s health first by supporting a moratorium, instead of allowing gas drilling companies to profit at our expense.”

“People around the state are putting their state senators on notice today, standing together with one clear message: stop fracking in Pennsylvania.” Said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania organizer for Food & Water Watch. “We’re thankful for those elected officials who stand with us. Those who continue to allow our state to be exploited by the gas industry should expect only more days like today.”

The rallies are part of a growing momentum for a moratorium in Pennsylvania. After a coalition of environmental and health groups submitted 100,000 signatures for a moratorium in April, Sen. Ferlo (D- Allegheny) introduced legislation that will put our health and environment first by halting fracking permits in the Commonwealth.

"I'm encouraged by the leadership of my colleagues in co-sponsoring my legislation to enact a temporary moratorium on fracking," said Sen. Ferlo. "These six senators understand the consequences of gas drilling, and have taken a stand to protect the Commonwealth's air, land and water despite the pressure from the wealthy oil and gas industry.”

“Pennsylvania’s approach to fracking is 'permit first' and 'figure the rest out later’,” said Melissa Troutman, Mountain Watershed Association outreach coordinator. “From water withdrawals to waste disposal, fracking in Pennsylvania is nothing more than an experiment. That is neither good policy nor planning for the Commonwealth’s future.”

The growing fracking disaster has now persuaded a majority of Pennsylvanians to support a moratorium, demonstrated by a recent Muhlenberg poll. And, in recent weeks, more senators have signed onto Sen. Ferlo’s legislation, including Sen. Boscola (D-Northampton), Sen. Dinniman,  Sen. Kitchens (D-Philadelphia), Sen. Leach (D-Montgomery), Sen. Schwank (D-Berks) and Sen. Washington (D-Montgomery, Phildelphia). And, the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee passed a resolution in support of a moratorium.

"Until there are greater assurances that our citizens, environment and communities are adequately protected and have reasonable legal recourse, there should be a moratorium on gas drilling in Pennsylvania," said Sen. Boscola.

"It is important that we take this action in the interest of clearly understanding the health and environmental impacts of fracking in the Commonwealth," Sen. Dinniman said.

"Since there is still plenty of gas in capped wells and the pipeline infrastructure is still in the planning and approval stages, now is an excellent moment to have a moratorium for a set period of time so we can better understand the impact of natural gas pipelines on my Chester and Montgomery County district," Dinniman concluded.

“The people of Pennsylvania have spoken—nearly two-thirds support a moratorium on fracking, according to recent polling. The Pennsylvania Democratic party voted to support a moratorium,” said Karen Feridun of Berks Gas Truth. “Now it's up to our elected officials to decide who they're representing—the people or the natural gas industry.”

The rush to drill has had devastating effects on Pennsylvania’s environment and public health and includes a track record of thousands of violations of cornerstone environmental laws and protections. In fact, the gas drilling industries have committed more than 4,363 environmental violations in recent years.

“The scope, scale and intensity of destructive accidents and widespread contamination has escalated even while new science has shown that shale gas development harms groundwater and climate,” said Iris Marie Bloom, executive director of Protecting Our Waters. “It's time for our leaders to follow the majority of Pennsylvanians in calling for a moratorium to protect our health!"

"Senator Pat Browne and all other PA Senators need to think long and hard about aligning themselves with the will of 59 percent of Pennsylvania citizens who support a moratorium,” said Julie Edgar of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “Our  need to stop this slow-motion train-wreck of gas industry domination of PA on hold before it is too late—it should be non-partisan, and non-negotiable."

There have also been dozens of cases where people’s health has suffered. In Dimock, PA, drilling operations contaminated the drinking water wells of several households for roughly three years, perhaps more. And, recently released court documents show that gas drillers settled with a Washington County family who endured health problems.

The event’s organizers pledge to continue pushing these senators, and many more, to support a moratorium in coming months with rallies, letter-writing campaigns, new reports about the impacts of fracking, and more.

"As a founding member of Americans Against Fracking and with nearly 3,000 members in Pennsylvania, Democracy for America is committed to the fight against drilling in PA because public health and the environment are more important than corporate profits,” said Ljubica Sarafov, mid-atlantic field organizer for Democracy for America.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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