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Special Interest Groupies Practice Denial at DRBC Hearings

natural gas boats - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Special interest groupies practiced deceit at those DRBC hearings in Waymart on Tuesday while carefully pretending not to see the Blue Whale in the Delaware.

Supporters of an ill-conceived fracking ban who showed up at DRBC hearings in Waymart on Tuesday—the “special interest groupies,” as Fred Peckham so nicely described them—were churning out nonsense in all the usual ways but they were also doing something else. They were engaged in the cliched behavior of “ignoring the elephant in the room,” except that this doesn’t really do justice to the scope of their actions. No, this is much bigger than an elephant; it’s more like ignoring the Blue Whale in the Delaware or the Susquehanna.

What I’m talking about, of course, is this Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) conclusion, after thousands of fracked gas wells and nearly a decade of water quality monitoring by that agency (which is essentially the same people as the DRBC):

…the Commission’s remote water quality monitoring network has not detected discernible impacts on the quality of the Basin’s water resources as a result of natural gas development

This statement is so blunt, so definitive and so straightforward, it cannot be acknowledged by its sister agency, the DRBC, if it has any hope of legally justifying its scandalous fracking ban. Likewise, it cannot be (and was not) admitted by a single one of the special interests groupies who showed up to testify on Tuesday at the DRBC hearings. Like the DRBC members who serve on the SRBC (a majority of both commissions) they just pretended it’s not there; that, like Sergeant Hans Georg Schultz, they saw nothing. They proceeded as if there were no laboratory, no hard data and no conclusions that might interfere with their chosen narrative.

They offered, instead, speculation combined with juvenile reasoning and refused to see the Blue Whale contradicting every single argument they made. They stood up and pontificated, for example, that the water withdrawn to hydraulically fracture gas wells would be lost to the hydrologic cycle.

Except that it isn’t true. Not only is much of the water returned but, far more importantly, natural gas, when combusted, produces water—much more water than needed to hydraulically fracture the well. It’s elementary science and little different than what happens when steam is evaporated from a power plant. The water simply returns to the hydrologic cycle through combustion, with a net gain in this case. There is no such thing as truly consumptive water use, which is more regulatory ruse than anything else.

They also told us the DRBC was a hero agency for stopping the Tocks Island Dam that would have turned the Middle Delaware into a reservoir to supply water to Philadelphia. The reality, from Richard Albert’s book “Damming the Delaware: The Rise and Fall of Tocks Island Dam,” is this:

By the end of 1962, proponents of a Delaware River dam had every reason to rejoice,” said Albert. “All the elements needed to build Tocks Island Dam had been accomplished: federal authorization, the creation of the long-sought interstate agency, and the creation of general public support for the project. None of these had been accidents. The creation of the Tocks Island Dam project had been a well-orchestrated endeavor. After this accomplishment, building a dam would seem easy.

Yes, the DRBC was specifically created to advance the Tocks Island Dam. Likewise, the idea the DRBC was set up as a super environmental agency from the beginning is false. Its water quality mission was designed to protect the water behind the dam. That is to say its water quality authority relates to its own water supply activities, not to acting as an environmental god over the entire watershed. Moreover, despite what what so many of the special interest groupies who testified at Tuesday’s DRBC hearings argued, the DRBC broader purposes were always economic. Check out this from the intro to its compact:

Whereas such a comprehensive plan administered by a basin wide agency will provide effective flood damage reduction; conservation and development of ground and surface water supply for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses; development of recreational facilities in relation to reservoirs, lakes, and streams; propagation of fish and game; promotion of related forestry, soil conservation, and watershed projects; protection and aid to fisheries dependent upon water resources; development of hydroelectric power potentialities; improved navigation; control of the movement of salt water; abatement and control of stream pollution; and regulation of stream flows toward the attainment of these goals…

The idea is conserve and develop water resources for industrial and other uses. “Economic development of the entire region” is the goal and industrial use of water has been recognized, from the very beginning, as the underlying foundation of the DRBC. Water quality is, indeed, important but it’s in the context of providing water for a multitude of human uses, prime among which are municipal, industrial and agricultural uses. The false idea that the DRBC is some regional environmental enforcer intended to prevent development is born of special interest influence over the agency. It has been corrupted.

If the DRBC were merely an environmental agency, focused on water quality alone, the case against the ban would, in fact, be even stronger because of that Blue Whale everyone is determined to ignore. It is impossible to make a credible case for a fracking ban as pollution control if the hard data in your own hands from a decade of activity and continuous water quality monitoring of that activity shows no discernible impact on water quality from the industrial use you wish to ban.

Tracy Carluccio from the Delaware Riverkeeper can prattle all day long that “It’s well established fracking pollutes” but the hard data in the DRBC/SRBC archives says otherwise.

Wes Gillingham, the Adams and Rockefeller families’ mountain man front, can rapid talk all the nonsense he wants about “science and fact” supporting a ban, but the hard data in the DRBC/SRBC archives says otherwise.

The DRBC can cite speculative fractivist studies New York and cherry pick ambiguous irrelevant material from the EPA study, but, once again, the hard data in the DRBC/SRBC archives says otherwise.

Nothing at all said by the special interest groupies who appeared at the DRBC hearings on Tuesday contradicted what the Blue Whale in the Delaware tells us; there are no discernible impacts on water quality and the DRBC has no rational reason to ban fracking, let alone the authority.

Meanwhile, Mary Beth Wood, Executive Director of the Wayne Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) put things in perspective by noting all the giddy economic talk from Governor Tom Wolf about natural gas development elsewhere in Pennsylvania while her participates in denying those same benefits to Pennsylvanians who happen to reside in Wayne County:

As Mary Beth noted, it seems the DRBC and Gov. Tom Wolf, in particular, want an economic renaissance in the Commonwealth “everywhere but here.” Worse, in denying one part of Pennsylvania its economic opportunity they’re relying upon suppositions and speculation that run directly counter to the hard data in their own archives.

This is the reality of what happened at Tuesday’s DRBC hearings; it was non-stop denial from the special interest groupies. They can’t handle the truth. It interferes with their political objectives.

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