Advocacy Groups Urge President Obama to Protect the Drinking Water of 15 Million Americans

Less than a week after a natural gas well blowout in Pennsylvania prompted Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, to temporarily suspend fracking in the state, advocates for clean, safe drinking water today urged President Barack Obama to halt fracking throughout the Delaware River Basin. Food & Water Watch joined with actor and founder Mark Ruffalo to call on President Obama to tell the Army Corps of Engineers to vote against proposed inadequate fracking regulations for the Delaware River Basin.

As pressure mounts to end U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, especially from foreign sources, many are touting shale gas as a “bridge fuel” between current energy resources and the clean, renewable ones of the future. Yet hydraulic fracturing has been shown to contaminate drinking water resources. To date, there have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites around the country.

Fracking can also endanger consumers who do not reside near drilling sites. Wastewater from the process often contains harmful levels of radioactive elements that cannot be effectively treated by the municipal treatment plants to which drillers ship their fracking waste. In Pennsylvania, this has resulted in toxic wastewater being discharged into rivers. Last week, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection told natural gas drillers to stop sending their fracking fluids to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“Fracking endangers vital water resources and further strains our nation’s already aging water infrastructure systems,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.  “The proposed regulations for the Delaware River Basin will not protect the water of the millions of area consumers who rely on it for their daily drinking and sanitation needs.”

Over 20,000 gas wells are planned for the Delaware River Basin, which supplies drinking water to 15.6 million people, including residents of New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware.  The Delaware River Basin Commission is currently considering public comments on a set of draft regulations.  Last week New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened to sue the federal agencies that sit on the commission if they failed to announce plans to conduct a cumulative impact analysis on the effects of drilling within the basin.

“I commend Attorney General Scheiderman for his leadership in protecting 15 million people’s drinking water,” said actor and Founder Mark Ruffalo. “Now it’s President Obama’s turn to recognize that Americans’ health is too precious to entrust to the big oil and gas corporations. Given everything that we now know about the dangers of fracking, we can’t rely on this industry to police itself any longer. We call on President Obama to take the Delaware River off the table for this dangerous form of extreme drilling.”

Late last year, outgoing Governor David Patterson imposed a temporary moratorium on fracking in New York.


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