Science Has No Agenda, Right?
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is the only governing body standing between fracking pollution and the fresh drinking water for 15.6 million people living in the Mid-Atlantic megapolis - a full 5% of the US population. So what is the DRBC doing to protect this precious, highly productive watershed from volatile shale gas pipelines and extreme fossil fuel extraction? Lately, not much.
The DRBC is an interstate commission, which is not a common thing. It’s comprised of the governors of PA, NY, NJ and DE (or their representatives), plus a representative of the Federal Government from The Army Corps of Engineers. It was created because the citizens in these states deemed the protection of their shared freshwater resources important enough to warrant utmost oversight and protection. That was 1961.
Today, DRBC commissioners act like children with mouths full of candy. It’s difficult to get a straight answer out of them, even at their own public meetings.
On December 5, 2012 in Trenton, NJ, one member of the commission alluded to new gas drilling regulations as being “not ready yet.” There was no mention of how much longer they’ll keep us guessing, no update as to which scientific and economic research will inform the new rules, not even an estimated timetable. I left the meeting wondering, can we really afford to let the DRBC act coy when our essential, and economically vital, watershed is at stake?
In September, 2012, petitions and civic objections began to accellerate, and Ecowatch.com reported that 170+ Groups Urge Delaware River Basin Commission to Maintain Ban on Fracking.
If nothing else, DRBC finds itself under ever increasingly scrutiny. One thing has changed, however. It's no longer just the member states keeping tabs on DRBC decisions. It's also national and international "big greens" and interstate grassroots networks, too. One has to believe that President Obama, whose vote is represented by Army Corps, is also kept apprised.
Nevertheless, at the December meeting, the inconsistently funded DRBC has further abdicated itself of its responsibility to protect the river basin. DRBC voted to turn a blind eye towards exercising regulatory authority over 13 new shale gas pipelines planned to criss-cross the watershed, essentially favoring the gas industry with a free-pass to dredge, deforest and literally pave over residents' opposition.
DRBC To Delaware Riverkeeper: “We’ve indulged you a little bit, here...”
On December 5th, Maya van Rossum, The Delaware Riverkeeper, petitioned DRBC members, presenting mounting evidence which should require the commission to assume regulatory authority over dangerous, explosive shale gas pipelines. After, van Rossum commented, "The Delaware River Basin Commissioners walked into that room having cut their deals and made their decision. Once again, they were not interested in the facts, the science, the law and the information that the public brought forth.”
Truth Has No Agenda, Either
So what's it gonna be, DRBC? Will commissioners “indulge” 170+ groups representing more than a hundred thousand citizens? Will Executive Director, Carol Collier, call a vote on new drilling regs in 2013? Would it signal that DRBC has bowed to pressure from a pro-gas-at-any-cost PA Governor, who has alluded to choking off its funding? Can Collier accomplish the impossible, while avoiding the inevitable?
Stay tuned because whatever happens next is anyone's guess, and we probably won't get much warning.