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‘The river as plaintiff’

April 21, 2011

[The following is the introduction to Ed Wesely’s comments, submitted to the Delaware River Basin Commission, on its draft regulations for natural gas drilling.]

The human costs of gas drilling, especially in western PA, evoke daily headlines that highlight our need to protect the Delaware River Valley.

Given breathing room, thanks to DRBC, we should craft regulations that conserve entire ecological communities, from stoneflies to herons and mergansers. If the gas industry blights their habitats we’ll lose our priceless river.

A 1972 Supreme Court dissent by William O. Douglas argued that the voice of an “inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage,” must be heard.

“The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes—fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it. Those people who have a meaningful relation to that body of water—whether it be a fisherman, a canoeist, a zoologist, or a logger—must be able to speak for the values which the river represents and which are threatened with destruction…

“Then there will be assurances that all the forms of life which it represents will stand before the court—the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and the bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams….”

In the present circumstance, we’re asking DRBC to “represent” and conserve values so eloquently described by Douglas.

A few decades ago, famed wildlife biologist Aldo Leopold described the ambivalence we feel about “progress” thus:

“Our tools are better than we are,
And grow faster than we do.
They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides.
But they do not suffice
For the oldest task in human history:
To live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

Ed Wesely
Milanville, PA

Lorax Syndrome

The Lorax is a Dr. Seuss mythical creature who speaks for the trees that industry slaughters. This ridiculus notion is very convenient position for a person to take as it is just so delightfully selfless. The problem arises when we investigate the hypocrisy of this notion when the Lorax rips off a couple squares of TP in the morning. How big does our deficit have to get? How many foreign oil wars do we have to fight? How expensive does gasoline have to get before you yield to reality? The reality that states at some point, we must become energy independent if we are to survive. Gas is that opportunity and only feasible opportunity at this time. There will be accidents. In fact there are accidents every day of every month of every year somewhere in industrialized America. It is time to man up and take control of our destiny.

The whole process has been proven to contaminate

The extensive and expensive, peer reviewed, studies have yet to be performed that would link the exact moment of the HF event to contamination (through migration of chemicals), but the proof of contamination caused by the whole process of drilling, whether vertical or horizontal, followed by high volume, slick water, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, in shale, especially in PA, is stated fact.

Totally wrong.

Hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated a drinking water supply. This "stated fact" is your own interpretation of events. All industry has accidents and problems. Planes, trains, and trucks have accidents but we continue to use them and enjoy the products and goods they supply us. Going to war in the mideast for oil is truly harmful and wasteful. Developing our own resources is necessary, as well as inevitable.

Hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing has never been proven to have contaminated a single drinking water source.

Hydraulic fracturing

In Pennsylvania, no but other states, yes