According to The Daily Star in Oneonta, NY, “A rally Sunday sponsored by supporters of natural-gas drilling in the area attracted hundreds of people to General Clinton Park in Bainbridge, according to organizers.” An official attendance figure was not available “but…organizers parked about 400 cars.”
Uh oh. Fifth grade angst is stopping my heart.
The future health of the Delaware River Basin will probably be decided in a few short weeks. The financial futures of our local producers hang in the balance. The clean drinking water source for 15 million+ people is on the chopping block. Our neighbors in Dimock, PA and Pavilion, Wyoming are pleading with us to wake up — to join hands with them.
But, as an organizer of “The Light Up The Delaware River Party,” my fifth grade refrain is, “Will as many people come to my 9-6-09 party as showed up at the Landowners’ shindig.”
I’m so pathetic I almost didn’t publish The Star Gazette’s more flattering crowd assessment of the pro-drilling rally.
So what’s a grassroots organizer to do? What variety of factors motivated 1000-2000 people to rally for drilling and hydro fracking in New York State when the EPA just reported, “… that initial investigations found 11 of 39 tested drinking water wells [Pavilion, Wyoming] were contaminated. Among the contaminants are toxics used in oil and gas production.”?
I’m flummoxed beyond words. As Leni Santoro and I hand-delivered Light Up The Delaware River Party invitations throughout the Delaware River Basin, we encountered two scenarios over and over again: (1) most people in the Basin had not heard of gas drilling or hydraulic fracturing; and (2) every single person who heard about it from us for the first time was outraged and dumbstruck that drilling and hydro fracking are being seriously considered in The Basin.
People are moved by threats they perceive as intimate and immediate. Unfortunately for pro-water advocates, residents of New York and Pennsylvania face many threats — many of which seem more “immediate” than the potential loss of their drinking water. How will they pay their mortgages? How will they pay their student loans? Where’s their next paycheck coming from?
A while back, I wrote, “Faced with famine, dwindling resources and invaders who carried contagious diseases, the inhabitants of “Easter Island” (Rapa Nui) turned on one another and plundered the lands of those who were killed. Their cultural totems were destroyed by civil wars and the people were reduced and enslaved…. In times of threat, we all reach for familiar comforts, tending to turn our backs to the storm and cast worried glances at strangers. So I ask myself, have our fears so crippled us that we can’t learn the lessons of history?”
If gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing come to The Delaware River Basin as they have to Fort Worth, Texas, Pavilion, Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania, what power will we have to stop them in New York State? New York City has registered its opposition to any threat against its water supply, but what about those of us who live in the Upper Basin? The same economic forces at work in Pennsylvania (the loss of 220,000 + industrial jobs in five years and the destruction of small local farms) will carry the “Drill, baby, drill” anthem across the Delaware River and into New York State.
Where will we plant our feet to stop them?
“The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 to take testimony on its proposed revisions to the draft docket for the application by Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at PPL’s Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center in Hawley, Pa. The revised draft docket will be available for public review about 10 business days prior to the September 23 hearing. As before, there will also be an opportunity to submit comments in writing. The earliest occasion on which the commission may act on the docket is at its next public meeting, scheduled for October 22, 2009.”
The 9-6-09 “Light Up The Delaware River Party” is one of the last chances you’ll have to be heard before the DRBC decides an issue that will impact your lives for as long as you live in The Basin. For those of us who remain, the future looks bleak.
Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. It is.
Don’t think sanity will prevail without your voice. It won’t.
Don’t think pro-water advocates are exaggerating the threat from drilling and hydro fracking. It isn’t possible.
Don’t miss this chance to celebrate the works of the river and its people. There won’t be many others.
Don’t leave gas drilling policies in the hands of drilling companies as the residents of Wyoming and Texas and Dimock did or you’ll be left with the same contaminated waters and worthless land as is their portion.
Stand up now. Demand that the DRBC require an Environmental Impact Statement and scientific studies of the cumulative impact of drilling and hydraulic fracturing on The Delaware River Basin. Require a detailed explanation of which agencies will oversee contaminated waste water disposal.
Light up your portion of the Delaware River. Find out how to plan an event in your area. Tell us what you’re planning and invite others. (Post your events at the “party location” page even if it’s a “closed” family event. The DRBC needs to know we’re alive and active.) Don’t forget to email photos of your event to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. They’ll be posted on a map of The Basin and presented as a collage to the DRBC.
Come to the table before it’s barren.