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ExxonMobile has a sneaky fracking plan for the mighty and scenic  DELAWARE RIVER that supplies the drinking water for more than 15 million Americans, including in NYC and Philadelphia.    

ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has applied for a permit to take 250,000 gallons of water every day for natural gas development, HYDRO FRACKING, in Broome and Delaware Counties of New York, just from the Oquaga Creek, a native trout stream that flows to the West Branch of the Delaware River. The vote and hearing were hastily scheduled for this Wednesday, May 11 at a Delaware River Basin Commission meeting in West Trenton, NJ, 4 hours away from the site of withdrawal. DRBC is the Federal/State agency that regulates the 13,500 square mile Delaware River Basin that stretches from NY’s Delaware County south to the Delaware Bay. The DRBC, whose members include the Army Corps of Engineers, Commission Chairman DE Gov. Jack Markall, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, PA Gov. Tom Corbett, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, has the legal authority over activities that may substantially affect water resources within the Basin.

The Delaware is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, flowing freely for 330 miles. It begins in New York and flows through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware to the Atlantic Ocean. The Upper Delaware was named America's most endangered river of 2010 because of the Marcellus gas rush.

Last month NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened to sue the Federal government over (lack of) hydrofracking regulations.

ACTION steps below the fold. Primer on fracking with many links below that.

Among the many issues of concern with fracking is the enormous use of clean, fresh water: 1-3,000,000 gallons are required to frack every well, every time. This action diary is about that clean water use, called water withdrawal.

Mobilized citizens have been very effective changing press coverage and elected officials' stance on fracking from full steam ahead/show me the money, to some caution and even a temporary moratorium in NY. Granting XTO/Exxon Mobil water withdrawal rights prematurely would be a bad decision for environmental and process reasons, and could create a dangerous precedent.

Why ACT now?

At a minimum, the DRBC’s rushed handling of this XTO Energy application is inappropriate. They scheduled a vote on this enormous water withdrawal from a modest creek without a study of its effects on the environment, wildlife, local agriculture and industry, including recreation, or local communities. They have not provided sufficient time for public comment. Further, they are preempting the regulatory process of NY State where drafting of rules regarding gas drilling is currently taking place.

The public was given just 10 working days notice and the Trenton hearing location is over 4 hours from the affected site, making it difficult for local residents to speak about the proposed withdrawal and the effects on the trout and other stream life, ecology and water quality of this richly diverse creek and on the downstream West Branch and main stem Delaware River.

The haste to consider giving XTO/ExxonMobil permits to withdraw water is unwarranted as they do not have permits to drill gas wells and have not even applied for permits in NY State and the Basin. So what's the rush?

This is clearly an industry gambit to preempt regulations that New York State has in development. They hoped people wouldn't notice but residents of the affected states, people who visit and recreate in the region or are concerned about clean water use for hydrofracking should weigh in, now.

What YOU can do

Take action now to protect clean drinking water, the environment and local communities. Put Federal and State officials on notice that our WATER is not for sale.


•         CALL and email Governor Andrew Cuomo (518) 474-8390. Tell him DRBC must hold off until the completion of a NY State regulatory process. Write Attorney General Atty Gen Eric Schneiderman with the same message 1-800-771-7755 (also email )

THEY can stop this precipitous DRBC vote.

•         Attend the ONLY public hearing at 1:30 PM, May 11, at 40 W. Upper Ferry Rd, West Trenton, NJ, the West Trenton Volunteer Fire Co. Schedule a time to speak in advance by contacting Paula Schmitt at 609 883-9500 ex. 224 or email and tell her you want to speak on the Exxon Mobil XTO proposed Docket.

•    Call Congress, ask your Reps to co-sponsor the FRAC Act
 – Although the Frac Act was introduced in 2009 and just re-introduced by Reps. Diana DeGette D-CO, Maurice Hinchey D-NY, and Jared Polis D-CO, fracking is STILL exempt from Clean Water and Right to Know laws, as are many “energy company” activities.

•         FAX a letter to the DRBC today at (609) 883-9522 and tell them either to table the vote and set up a public hearing with a 60-day minimum comment period, or to vote against the approval. Tell the DRBC to schedule public hearings near the Oquaga Creek so affected citizens can participate in the process.

Sample letter to DRBC:

Carol Collier, Executive Director
Commission Members
Delaware River Basin Commission
P.O. BOX 7360
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360

Re: XTO Energy, Inc., D-2010-022-1

Dear Ms. Collier and Commission Members,

I oppose the approval of XTO Energy’s (ExxonMobil Corp.) application for a water withdrawal of 0.25 million gallons of water per day from the Oquaga Creek in Broome County, NY for gas drilling in Broome and Delaware Counties.

The DRBC is analyzing the impacts of gas drilling and has a drilling moratorium in place while developing gas regulations that could affect this withdrawal proposal; New York Department of Environmental Conservation is in the midst of conducting an environmental review of the gas development practices that this water would be used for.  It is untimely and irresponsible to approve this withdrawal while these deliberations are ongoing.

The people in Broome and Delaware Counties have an undeniable stake in this creek, its watershed and the region.  This withdrawal and the drilling it will support will indelibly change that area.  Yet you are refusing to hold a Hearing there. This is unacceptable and denies many people of their right to participate in the decision making process.  I request that you set a Public Hearing in the Oquaga Creek region, just as you had a local hearing for the West Branch Lackawaxen River withdrawal in 2010.  Further, you have only given 10 working days notice of your proposed approval; this deprives everyone, including the 15 million people who ultimately rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, of a meaningful public process.

The fresh water flows of this vibrant creek provide essential habitat for trout and other special species and the watershed provides groundwater supplies that could be impacted by this depletive withdrawal.  The Oquaga is an important recreational resource and feeds healthy cold water flows to the West Branch and main stem Delaware, supporting the exceptional water quality of the Delaware River.  Who says gas drilling is more important?

I respectfully request that this approval not be approved, that a meaningful public participation process be scheduled, that the Oquaga Creek be protected, and that the moratorium remain in place on gas drilling in the Delaware River Watershed.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


[Print and sign your name, address and date]

If the hydrofracking issue is new to you, you can bone up by reading these thorough articles:
NY Times series of gas drilling articles
ProPublica series on gas drilling

Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter (NY State) Gas Task Force action page  
Delaware Riverkeeper
Damascus Citizens

Fracking primer to get you started:
To extract the Marcellus Shale gas, industrial gas mining must employ horizontal drilling with the hydraulic fracturing technique invented by Halliburton, shorthanded as “fracking.”  Industry animation  The natural gas trapped within the Marcellus formation underlies NY, PA, Ohio, VA, WV, MD, TN and Lake Erie.

Gas drilling companies are rushing to profit. They are lobbying hard to maintain their exemptions from Federal environmental laws, and secure their leases and permits before State agencies can put regulations in place. Some states like Pennsylvania allow hydrofracking under State forests in hopes of closing the budget gap, New Yorkers have sued hoping to prevent this  

You’ve likely seen the oil & gas industry PR campaign happy-talk advertisements about hundreds of years of “clean energy” "readily available" under the Appalachian Mountains, and probably already know that “fracking” is pretty controversial and not quite as green as industry claimed. Among the serious issues that accompany fracking, in addition to the immense withdrawals of fresh water, are:
methane escape contributing to climate change
toxic fracking chemicals
air pollution
ground water pollution from spilled or dumped frack waste or "brine", more  
and even earthquakes

Split Estate

Updated by Catskill Julie at Mon May 09, 2011 at 11:24 PM EDT

BIG NEWS: 5/9 ProPublica reports researchers from Duke have linked fracking to nearby water wells, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (FINALLY!)

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm surprised NY isn't moving faster. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catskill Julie, cotterperson

    I can see this happening in NJ or PA, but I thought Cuomo would be on top of something like this.

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun May 08, 2011 at 07:49:25 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the movie links. (3+ / 0-)

    I'd heard about Gasland, but not the others.

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun May 08, 2011 at 08:00:27 AM PDT

  •  Is this one of the sickest things (6+ / 0-)

    you have ever seen, or what?

    Thanks for diarying this, and for taking this perspective.  This is something people can relate to, I think, and I really hope that more people wise up to the approaching water crisis.  This is my biggest fear, water crisis.

  •  Excellent Diary and great review of the current (5+ / 0-)

    problems. New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are on the point of the gas companies spear. Many rural areas of Ohio have a hundred land agents signing up mineral rights with an initial payment and promises of pie in the sky money without any explanation of how drilling may degrade the quality of life the owners now enjoy. And with the Ohio state agencies under direction of the Governor there are no official citizen or consumer protections against the Gas Giants (local government is legally prevented from doing anything to protect their citizens) including drilling in state owned land including state parks.

    I don't dislike all conservatives... mainly just the ones that vote Republican.

    by OHdog on Sun May 08, 2011 at 08:18:17 AM PDT

    •  Is there a good website you would like to (4+ / 0-)

      post for Ohioans to keep up on what's happening there?


      Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

      by Catskill Julie on Sun May 08, 2011 at 08:32:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A good introduction to fracking and a place (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catskill Julie, DawnN, BlueSue

        to follow local activities is  NEOGAP. "NEOGAP is organized to educate, empower, and advocate for the citizens of Ohio who are facing threats to health, safety, and property rights posed by oil and gas development." The site also has links to groups active in other parts of the country facing the same challenges often by the same companies.

        I don't dislike all conservatives... mainly just the ones that vote Republican.

        by OHdog on Sun May 08, 2011 at 10:00:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  AlterNet article on negative impact on families (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catskill Julie, DawnN, kdub

      This is a good article about Bradford County, PA and the negative impact from undrinkable water to yards turned into methane fields to drops in property values. Ironically it was published just a couple of days before the well blowout in Bradford County.

      "They Are Afraid Their House Could Blow Up": Meet the Families Whose Lives Have Been Ruined by Gas Drilling

      Quiet roads and designated bicycle routes are now major thoroughfares for gas industry trucks. A blue haze can be seen between trees. Trucks routinely carry weight that exceeds limits leaving small rural roads busted and dangerous. Roads are sprayed with drilling waste as a cheap ice suppressant in the winter and dust control in the summer. The waste eventually makes its way back into streams. Accidents, overturned vehicles and speeding violations are everyday occurrences. At night the landscape is transformed as bright lights from drilling rigs appear like mini skyscrapers. Red lights from a long line of trucks, their engines running, pinpoint water intake centers, the lifeblood of the fracking industry. Across from a daycare center and down the road from Wyalusing High School, smoke from a fire at TranZ, a bulk material supply operation for the gas industry, spews noxious odors into the morning sky.

      And here's how salespeople are told to mislead to get people to sign up. TreeHugger got a company of the drilling company's manual for salespeople in the Ohio market:

      "Tell the landowner that all their neighbors have signed. Even if the neighbors have not, this often will push an undecided landowner in favor of signing. Remember, the first visit is the most crucial. They will not know if their neighbors have signed, and even if they do they will want to sign so they do not lose out on the potential profits. Once they have signed, then you can show those leases to undecided neighbors for added pressure."

      Strategies for Convincing Landowners to Allow Drilling
      Other interesting, but less surprising points reveal the oil company's strategy for beginning the pitch: "Most landowners will be patriotic Americans, and will desire to free our nation from foreign oil dependence. Make certain you lead with this selling point: CHINA bought more oil than the United States last year. Fear of foreign encroachment is the biggest asset we have in selling our development strategy."

  •  Of course, this is infuriating, and I can imagine (7+ / 0-)

    the oil company threat: if you don't let us do what we want, your gasoline prices will have to be raised causing the price of everything else including food to increase and people will starve.

    And, I'm curious. When I use water at my house, I pay for it. Does an oil company pay for water when it takes it from a creek or river? How much? Who gets the money?

    BTW, I live in an oil producing part of the country, so I can give you one piece of advice you could probably guess on your own. When they say they'll clean up the mess, don't believe them.  

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal

    by RJDixon74135 on Sun May 08, 2011 at 08:35:39 AM PDT

  •  I live near Delaware Water Gap (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, Catskill Julie, DawnN, kdub, Unkie J

    and the river is important to our tourism through all the seasons except winter. However, we have a very industry-friendly new Republican governor in Corbett.

    There has been a good development involving wastewater from fracking. The drillers have been sending wastewater to treatment plants not equipped to process such chemical-laden water and this poorly treated water was dumped into the river and streams.

    From HuffPo on April 19:

    Fracking Wastewater Disposal Process To Be Altered In Pennsylvania

    Amid criticism from environmentalists and growing concern from scientists, Pennsylvania on Tuesday asked the state's booming natural gas industry to halt disposing of millions of gallons of contaminated drilling wastewater through treatment plants that discharge into rivers and streams.

    The plants are ill-equipped to remove pollutants from the wastewater – which is intensely salty and tainted with chemicals. The state Department of Environmental Protection said recent water tests suggest the discharges could harm drinking water supplies and, eventually, human health.

    The DEP set a May 19 deadline for drillers to stop bringing the waste to the treatment plants. It did not say how the wastewater should be disposed of in the future.

    One of the other things that bothers me about this process is the volume of water used in the fracking process - 1.8 million gallons and a well can be fracked up to 18 times. There are already thousands of wells in the Marcellus Shale with thousands more projected. Where is all that water coming from? Are they draining our water sources?

    I love the commercials touting the 100 years of clean burning natural gas like it's some miracle but so many people don't realize the environmental issues.

    •  I looked in vain last night for an estimate (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueSue, DawnN, Unkie J

      of gas wells expected to be drilled in the Marcellus using horizontal drilling and hydrofracking. Calculating the amount of clean, fresh water used for this industrial mining would be staggering.

      Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

      by Catskill Julie on Sun May 08, 2011 at 10:15:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Animated map of PA gas well permits from Jan '07 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueSue, Unkie J

    through April '10, quite short.

    You may have to watch several times (I did)

    animated map

    Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

    by Catskill Julie on Sun May 08, 2011 at 11:02:21 AM PDT

  •  An excellent diary - info, links, and action. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catskill Julie, kdub

    Hotlisted and adding link to No Fracking Way..
    Protecting our water, IMO, is the single most important issue in front of us today - affecting practically all of the myriad environmental, health, economic and class issues facing us today. Thanks for an important diary.

    I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.– Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by DawnN on Sun May 08, 2011 at 11:07:28 AM PDT

    •  Thanks DawnN! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

      by Catskill Julie on Sun May 08, 2011 at 11:16:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also just pimped it in the Sunday Gulf Watchers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catskill Julie

        AUV. The actions of the big energy companies are surely insane - unless that really is where all the methane breathing pod people are gathering.

        I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.– Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by DawnN on Sun May 08, 2011 at 12:07:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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