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Commissioner Martin: Don't Sell New Jersey's Water Supply Short

Date : Tue, 27 Jul 2010 12:35:17 -0400

For Immediate Release
July 27, 2010 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club Director, 609-558-9100

Commissioner Martin: Don't Sell New Jersey's Water Supply Short

New Jersey should be deeply concerned with proposals for shale drilling and hydro fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River is the source of drinking water for three million New Jersey residents. Currently, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has a moratorium in place on new wells, however, we are concerned with the position New Jersey is taking on this issue.

In a letter sent July 13 to the DRBC, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin makes a number of troubling assertions regarding fracking in the Marcellus Shale. In the letter, Commissioner Martin says he believes Pennsylvania should have primacy over the rules and regulations on fracking in the Marcellus shale. However, fracking will have serious impacts on the Delaware River, which provides drinking water for both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"What happens in Pennsylvania affects the entire river basin, especially New Jersey. Pennsylvania should not have primacy over decisions impacting the river basin," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. "The DRBC was created to regulate water for the region and these decisions should not be made by one state. New Jersey plays a very important role in the DRBC and New Jersey should be standing up for its own interests, not Pennsylvania's."

Pennsylvania has some of the worst water problems in the nation that they repeatedly fail to deal with. It has fought against strengthening standards and eliminating pollution from waterways. Pennsylvania is constantly opposing land use regulations that protect water and pushing for more dumping. Furthermore, Pennsylvania is leasing public lands for well drilling and therefore has a conflict of interest because they are looking to make money through fracking.

"Pennsylvania has consistently done a poor job protecting its water. They do not need to be in the business of protecting New Jersey's drinking water," Tittel said.

Hydro fracking is the process of extracting natural gas from wells thousands of feet deep. This process involves the use of many chemicals, which are mixed with water and injected into the ground. The average frack uses between one million and six million gallons of water each frack and many get fracked three or four times before going into production. Additionally, each frack needs maintenance fracking afterwards.

Fracking fluid is water mixed with numerous chemicals, many which are hazardous and toxic, including benzene, components of salt, and other volatile organic chemicals. This process can contaminate streams and rivers through the discharge of fracking fluids or accidental spills. Much of the fracking fluid injected into the ground does not get removed and could contaminate our aquifers, posing a serious threat to our ground water.

Each Marcellus shale well will destroy 15 acres of forest and require a half mile of roadway. There are currently over 10,000 wells seeking permits. The entire Delaware River Basin could see as many as 50,000 wells. This could result in the removal of a million acres of woodlands and farmland and the construction of 30,000 miles of road and pipelines. The runoff and pollution will cause irreparable damage to the Delaware River Watershed. Thanks to Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force and the Bush Administration's changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act, fracking fluids are now exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The largest company looking to drill in the Marcellus Shale happens to be Halliburton.

In his letter, Commissioner Martin also says he wants the DRBC to complete its rules on fracking by the end of September. Because fracking is a very complex issue with a tremendous amount of environmental impacts, the Sierra Club believes we should not be rushing to put rules in place without a complete understanding of the impacts this process will have on the Delaware River in New Jersey. The Commissioner's letter and recent actions, including the approval of the Tenaco gas pipeline through the Highlands to transport gas from the Marcellus Shale, are cause for serious concern regarding fracking and the quality of our drinking water.

Thanks to Congressman Rush Holt, the EPA has just received public money to study the impacts of fracking on our water. We believe it would be prudent to wait for the results of that review before moving forward with drilling. Rules should not be put in place until the EPA releases its study that assesses the impacts Marcellus Shale drilling will have on water quality and quantity. The DRBC currently has a temporary and incomplete moratorium on fracking that will expire before the EPA's impact study is released and full regulations are in place. The moratorium does not include previously permitted drilling projects or related projects like Stone Energy's application to withdraw 700,000 million gallons per day from a major tributary. The state of Delaware opposed this project but New Jersey supported Pennsylvania in approving it.

The Delaware River is a critical natural resource that not only provides drinking water for millions but is also an important recreational resource. Many people come to the region to kayak, boat, tube and enjoy various water activities. Because of this, the river is the center of a very strong economy for river towns like Lambertville and Frenchtown. If the Delaware River is polluted, it will destroy not just the water, but the economies of these towns as well.

"We do not want to see the Gulf of Mexico in Pennsylvania," Tittel said. "There have been a series of spills, explosions and even deaths with Marcellus Shale drilling already in Pennsylvania and other places. We're concerned that unless this is strictly and properly regulated, what has happened to the Gulf of Mexico could happen to the Delaware River."

  Kara Seymour, Program Assistant NJ Sierra Club 145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618 609.656.7612 (f) 609.656.7618  <http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org/> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org   Received on 2010-07-27 09:35:17

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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