Yesterday, Pennsylvania legislators passed a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) bill that will further limit environmental protections, lower drilling fees, handcuff local governments' zoning power for gas development and undermine public health.
Today, SB 246—a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey—goes before the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
Estimates peg the value of natural gas reserves buried within the Marcellus Shale underneath Pennsylvania and some of the state's immediate neighbors as high as one trillion dollars. With that kind of money at stake, the mostly unregulated extraction process called fracking that's necessary to unleash the gas has become the nation's most polarizing environmental and energy issue.
Look no further than the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Fracking was brought to national attention back in 2008 through a sequence of mishaps involving gas wells set up by Cabot Oil and Gas in the small town of Dimock, Pa. In the winter of 2008, metals and methane linked to Cabot's wells were found in many area homes' drinking water. In 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a document citing dozens of infractions, including well-construction problems, diesel spills and fracking fluid spills. In September 2009, an estimated 8,000 gallons of fracturing fluid—manufactured by Halliburton—discharged into Stevens Creek and nearby wetlands.
Three years later, residents of Dimock are still fighting for their right to clean water and still reliant upon organizations such as the EPA to deliver fresh drinking water—a responsibility Cabot Oil and Gas is now absolved from. By now, most people are familiar with the infamous images of flammable water pouring from their taps. To see a video, click here.
And that is only the beginning.
Even so, in a move that blatantly disregards the health and welfare of Pennsylvania citizens, Feb. 8 was a landmark day in Pennsylvania as the Pennsylvania Legislature—led by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett—passed a bill to institute an impact fee on Marcellus gas wells and limit the ability of municipalities to restrict gas drilling. In a mostly party-line split, the Republican-led House pushed the bill through on a vote of 101-90.
Next door, New Jersey citizens stand on the brink of banning fracking within state lines entirely as consideration of Senate Bill 246 goes before the New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Feb. 9. New Jersey currently has placed a moratorium on fracking until January 2013.
Despite opposition from Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the American Petroleum Institute, SB 246 has garnered overwhelming public support with the help of Sens. Robert Gordon (D-38th District), Linda Greenstein (D-14th District) and Christopher Bateman (R-16th District).
While citizens of New Jersey are poised to celebrate, residents of Pennsylvania are witnessing just how powerful the oil and gas industry's lobbying arm really is.
According to MarcellusMoney.org, the drilling industry has contributed more than $3 million in political contributions to Pennsylvania lawmakers since 2001 and spent an additional $5 million in the capitol of Harrisburg in the past three years. Unfortunately, the money spent was vindicated yesterday.
The fight isn't over in New Jersey. Click here for more information on how you can reach out to New Jersey lawmakers today.
To learn more about fracking, visit EcoWatch's Fracking page for all the latest information—nationally and internationally.
Eleven families in the tiny rural town of Dimock, Pa., 30 miles south of Binghamton, N.Y., have received the most basic of holiday gifts—clean drinking water.
Four pallet-loads of bottled water will provide some relief from the bleach-treated pond water the families have been using for drinking, cooking and bathing since natural gas leached into their wells and poisoned them—a result of hydrofracking.
The bottled water is from Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water, in partnership with Riverkeeper, the watchdog organization that protects the Hudson River and its tributaries.
“Dimock has become the template for the cataclysmic costs of hydrofracking to America’s communities, our water supplies and our environment,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., founder of Riverkeeper and of Keeper Springs, which donates 100 percent of its profits to protecting America’s waterways.
“Imagine turning on your faucet to find water so contaminated that you can light it on fire. This is the condition that the people of Dimock face every day,” Kennedy said. “Their plight underscores the costs of hydraulic fracturing operations in communities across our country."
Paul Gallay, president and Hudson Riverkeeper, who appealed for help to Keeper Springs, said, “The balance between public good and private gain here is so out of whack as to be ludicrous. How can you deprive an entire community of what should be a basic right? We are grateful to the Keeper Springs people for their generosity, in making life a little better in Dimock, at least for the time being.”
The water supply in Dimock was destroyed in 2008 when Cabot Oil & Gas began hydrofracking in search of natural gas. The water is now a toxic brew of methane gas, heavy metals, radioactive material and chemicals such as ethylene glycol, known as antifreeze.
Cabot, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had found at fault for the contamination, had been delivering clean water to the families but abruptly stopped on Nov. 30, with the department’s approval.
For more information, click here.
Riverkeeper is a member-supported, watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. For more information, please visit www.riverkeeper.org.
Founded in 1999, Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water was launched by environmental lawyer and advocate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and two friends, John Hoving and Chris Bartle, with one mission: to help support, protect and restore our nation’s waterways by donating 100 percent of profits to this cause. The brand Keeper Springs is named to honor the keepers of the Waterkeeper® Alliance, environmental heroes who fight to protect waterways all over the world from polluters and degradation. To date, Keeper Springs is proud to have raised more than $1 million to support America’s waterways.
Keeper Springs uses only 100 percent natural and sustainable spring water, sourced and bottled locally, and keeps our carbon footprint to a minimum by using LEED-certified bottling plants and shipping our water no more than 500 miles from our springs. In addition, Keeper Springs uses bottles made from 50 percent recycled PET…and is working towards a 100 percent recycled PET bottle. Keeper Springs also supports the most comprehensive recycling legislation and has spent over a decade helping to fight for better regulation, tough penalties and solutions. Keeper Springs is available at beverage retailers in many of the Eastern states, and is expanding distribution on the West Coast. For more information, visit www.KeeperSprings.com.