Watch this video that Josh Fox and I created for Vice President Joe Biden asking him to intervene on behalf of the Delaware River and make his voice heard against fracking the Delaware. Then take the easy action steps below.
EASY ACTION STEPS:
• Send a fax to the key targets by clicking here.
• Open a new email, copy the letter below and paste the letter into the email. Put in the subject head Don't Frack the Delaware. Send the email to Public@ovp.eop.gov and firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message to Vice President Joe Biden by clicking here.
• Call 202-456-1414 and ask to leave a message for Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama.
LETTER TO JOE BIDEN
Dear Vice President Biden,
We respect your integrity, your strength, your leadership and most of all your environmental record.
I am writing to urge you to unequivocally reject the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) proposal to allow gas drilling within the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC received 69,800 public comments on their proposed draft regulations which were overwhelmingly against fracking. They have ignored them and in the process ignored the democratic process. Commissioners who vote to allow fracking are on the wrong side of history and will be held accountable.
Hydraulic Fracturing—or Fracking—is a highly dangerous method of drilling for natural gas that risks the safety of our air, water, and food, and threatens the health of our families, communities, and environment and will undoubtedly put into jeopardy these critical considerations in the Delaware River Basin. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy Science Advisory Board’s own Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production recently recommended “[p]reservation of unique and/or sensitive areas as off limits to drilling. . .”
I urge you to say no to fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The charter of the DRBC calls for it to protect water quality in the basin, and clearly calls for nothing else to be considered above this mandate. There has been more than sufficient evidence, through widely documented incidents of contamination, to overwhelmingly convince any individual willing to look at the facts that a practice as potentially catastrophic as hydraulic fracturing should not be considered in a such sensitive area, the drinking water supply for 15.6 million people.
Do not think that a yes vote on these regulations will go unnoticed or unchallenged in the media or in the public sphere. The New York Times, Pro-Publica, and HBO’s GASLAND 2, to name a few media sources will report on fracking in the watershed and organizations with a very wide reach such as 350.org, Democracy for America, NRDC, Environmental Working Group, Catskill MountainKeeper, Delaware RiverKeeper and literally hundreds of others will be extremely vocal about any drilling allowed in the Delaware River Basin. If the regulations pass and the river basin is industrialized beyond recognition and contaminated, it will be forever the legacy of those who voted yes.
This watershed provides drinking water for more than 15 million people, delivering 1,803 million gallons of water every day to public water supplies. That’s about 5% of the nation’s population – including New York City and Philadelphia – who are depending on this relatively small watershed for safe drinking water every day. From massive water withdrawals to leaks and spills of toxics-laden frack fluid to the generation of millions of gallons of wastewater – sometimes laced with radioactive substances – the for gas drilling to pollute our water is grave. Specifically, and documented in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Hazen and Sawyer Report, slick water horizontal hydraulic fracturing uses around 350,000-400,000 pounds of chemicals per well, many of these extremely toxic and cancer causing. To allow such obviously carcinogenic and dangerous activity near the sole or primary drinking water source for millions of Americans is nothing short of an invitation to disaster.
Moreover, the Delaware River Basin is vital to our ecology and quality of life. Its national park recreation areas are so treasured that 5.4 million visitors come each year to hike, camp, boat, or swim. Drinking water for millions, habitat for wildlife, and recreation for millions: one is hard-pressed to find meaning in the DOE subcommittee’s phrase “unique and or sensitive areas” if you do not apply it to the Delaware River Basin. With this clear and defining policy statement, how could one actually move forward to drill and inject so much chemically laden water into such a sensitive and vital American Treasure?
Moreover, oil and gas industry claims that drilling will aid economic recovery are patently false. In fact, drilling will damage the Basin’s existing economic value. The value of its water supply alone has recently been calculated by a University of Delaware study at $3,767,000 in annual economic value. Looking at the many aspects of economic value that the River provides, this study concludes that “[t]he Delaware Basin contributes close to $22 billion in annual market/non-market value to the regional economy…” Much of that value derives from forests, water supply and high water quality. These are the very assets at risk if natural gas development moves ahead in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, located in the Upper and Middle Delaware River Watershed. More so, many families in Pennsylvania, are already finding that after contamination, the value of their homes has dropped precipitously to what it once was. This is not the economic benefit that, during such a time of economic hardship, should be even be considered.
Surely you have noticed that the only contingents interested in pushing forward with fracking are ones that stand to benefit financially, who consistently dismiss the economic hardships and environmental degradation caused by the collateral damage incurred from this risky practice. This sort of omission and faulty economic analysis leaves the greater public liable for the true costs of contamination in numerous, and painful ways. Giving a yes vote to something that could potentially harm the general public in such a way would be nothing short of granting license to harm millions of Americans for the economic prosperity of a few.
There is an out, just as New York has urged no drilling in its watersheds which serve huge populations (the watersheds for New York City and Syracuse) the Obama Administration and the state of Delaware can vote to disallow fracking in the Delaware river basin which also serves a huge number of people with drinking water.
Currently New York Attorney General has filed suit against the commission for failing in its obligation to complete a cumulative impact study of hydrofracking on the river basin, which is required of the commission by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This means that the DRBC would be violating the law in allowing gas drilling regulations. We urge you to reject all drilling in the river basin flat out, but, at very least, the DRBC is required to do a multi-year cumulative impact study, which would truly assess the impact on the river basin, by federal law.
I strongly urge you to reject the proposed regulations to drill and call on you to protect the Delaware River Basin from fracked gas drilling. Please stand with this National Wild and Scenic River, its communities and habitats, and the more than 15 million people who rely on the Delaware for their water. To do otherwise could be catastrophic, and would surely cement your historic decision to reflect alignment with the polluting fossil fuel industry for generations to come. We voted you into office to serve and protect all of the people, not just the few who wish to profit at all costs.
Please make sure the DRBC votes no on the proposed regulations and insist on a ban in this fragile, scenic, historic, and critical watershed that serves millions of Americans.
sign your name
For more information, click here.
By Melissa Gaskill
Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.
Restored seagrass beds in Virginia now provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of scallops. Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science / CC BY 2.0<p>The paper is part of a growing trend of evidence suggesting seagrass meadows can be easier to restore than other coastal habitats.</p><p>Successful seagrass-restoration methods include <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304377099000078?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">transplanting shoots</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanized planting</a> and, more recently, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17438-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodegradable mats</a>. Removing threats, proximity to donor seagrass beds, planting techniques, project size and site selection all play roles in a restoration effort's success.</p><p>Human assistance isn't always necessary, though. In areas where some beds remain, seagrass can even recover on its own when stressors are reduced or removed. For example, seagrass began to recover when Tampa Bay improved its water quality by reducing nitrogen loads from runoff by roughly 90%.</p><p>But more and more, seagrass meadows struggle to hang on.</p><p>The marine flowering plants have declined globally since the 1930s and currently disappear at a rate equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes, according to the <a href="https://www.unep.org/resources/report/out-blue-value-seagrasses-environment-and-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Environment Programme</a>. And research published in 2018 found the rate of decline is <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GB005941" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">accelerating</a> in many regions.</p><p>The causes of decline vary and overlap, depending on the region. They include thermal stress from climate change; human activities such as dredging, anchoring and coastal infrastructure; and intentional removal in tourist areas. In addition, increased runoff from land carries sediment that clouds the water, blocking sunlight the plants need for photosynthesis. Runoff can also carry contaminants and nutrients from fertilizer that disrupt habitats and cause algal blooms.</p><p>All that damage comes with a cost.</p>
The Value of Seagrass<p>As with ecosystems like rainforests and <a href="https://therevelator.org/mangroves-climate-change/" target="_blank">mangroves</a>, loss of seagrass increases carbon dioxide emissions. And that spells trouble not just for certain habitats but for the whole planet.</p><p>Although seagrass covers at most 0.2% of the seabed, it <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">accounts for 10%</a> of the ocean's capacity to store carbon and soils, and these meadows store carbon dioxide an estimated 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests. Slow decomposition rates in seagrass sediments contribute to their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238506081_Assessing_the_capacity_of_seagrass_meadows_for_carbon_burial_Current_limitations_and_future_strategies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high carbon burial rates</a>. In Australia, according to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15204" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> by scientists at Edith Cowan University, loss of seagrass meadows since the 1950s has increased carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 5 million cars a year. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that a 29% decline in seagrass in Chesapeake Bay between 1991 and 2006 resulted in an estimated loss of up to 1.8 million tons of carbon.</p>
Eelgrass in the river delta at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg / NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC<p>Seagrasses also protect costal habitats. A healthy meadow slows wave energy, reduces erosion and lowers the risk of flooding. In Morro Bay, California, a 90% decline in the seagrass species known as eelgrass caused extensive erosion, according to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272771420303528?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> from researchers at California Polytechnic State University.</p><p>"Right away, we noticed big patterns in sediment loss or erosion," said lead author Ryan Walter. "Many studies have shown this on individual eelgrass beds, but very few studies looked at it on a systemwide scale."</p><p>In the tropics, seagrass's natural protection can reduce the need for expensive and often-environmentally unfriendly <a href="https://www.nioz.nl/en/news/zeegras-spaart-stranden-en-geld" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beach nourishments</a> regularly conducted in tourism areas.</p><p>Seagrass ecosystems improve water quality and clarity, filtering particles out of the water column and preventing resuspension of sediment. This role could be even more important in the future. By producing oxygen through photosynthesis, meadows could help offset decreased oxygen levels caused by warmer water temperatures (oxygen is less soluble in warm than in cold water).</p><p>The meadows also provide vital habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, birds, marine mammals such as manatees, invertebrates and algae. They provide nursery habitat for <a href="https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32636/seagrass.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly 20%</a> of the world's largest fisheries — an <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/seagrass-meadows-harbor-wildlife-for-centuries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated 70%</a> of fish habitats in Florida alone.</p><p>Conversely, their disappearance can contribute to die-offs of marine life. The loss of more than 20 square miles of seagrass in Florida's Biscayne Bay may have helped set the stage for a widespread <a href="https://www.wlrn.org/2020-08-14/the-seagrass-died-that-may-have-triggered-a-widespread-fish-kill-in-biscayne-bay" target="_blank">fish kill</a> in summer 2020. Lack of grasses to produce oxygen left the basin more vulnerable when temperatures rose and oxygen levels dropped as a result, says Florida International University professor Piero Gardinali.</p>
Damaged Systems, a Changing Climate<p>Governments and conservationists around the world have already put a lot of effort into coastal restoration efforts. And that's helped some seagrass populations.</p><p>Where stressors remain, though, restoration grows more complicated. <a href="https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/en/publications/the-future-of-seagrass-ecosystem-services-in-a-changing-world(3a8c56db-7bed-4c9e-ac7f-c72453e2a102).html" target="_blank">Research</a> published this September found that only 37% of seagrass restorations have survived. Newly restored meadows remain vulnerable to the original stressors that depleted them, as well as to storms — and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis">climate change</a>.</p>
Seagrass in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Alicia Wellman / Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>In Chesapeake Bay a cold-water species of seagrass is currently hitting its heat limit, especially in summer, according to Alexander Challen Hyman of University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment. As waters continue to warm due to climate change, the species likely will disappear there.</p><p>Climate-driven sea-level rise complicates the problem as well. Seagrasses thrive at specific depths — too shallow and they dry out or are eaten, too deep and there isn't enough light for photosynthesis.</p>
But There’s Good News, Too<p>Luckily, left to its own devices, a seagrass meadow can flourish for hundreds of years, according to a <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1861" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> published last year by Hyman and other researchers from the University of Florida. The researchers arrived at their conclusion by looking at shells of living mollusks and fossil shells to estimate the ages of meadows in Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast.</p><p>That area has extensive, relatively pristine seagrass meadows. "Our motivation was to understand the past history of these systems, and shells store a lot of history," said co-author Michal Kowalewski.</p><p>A high degree of similarity between living and dead shells indicates a stable area, while a mismatch suggests an area shifted from seagrass to barren sand. The researchers found that long-term accumulations of shells resembled living ones, suggesting that the seagrass habitats have been stable over time.</p><p>That stability allows biodiversity to thrive, creating conditions where specialist species can survive and flourish, according to Hyman.</p><p>Discovering the long-term stability of seagrass meadows has implications for choosing restoration sites, Kowalewski notes.</p><p>"There must be reasons they thrive in one place, while a mile away they don't and fossil data says they probably never did," he said. "If we remove a seagrass patch, we cannot hope to plant it somewhere else. It's not just the seagrass that is special. The location at which it's found is special, too."</p><p>A better approach is conserving these habitats in the first place, but we're not doing enough of that right now. The UN reports that marine protected areas safeguard just 26% of recorded seagrass meadows, compared with 40% of coral reefs and 43% of mangroves.</p>
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