The Rank Hypocrisy of ‘American Rivers’ on the Marcellus Shale Drilling Issue

You would have to be blind to have missed the recent announcement from American Rivers, a so-called conservation organization, that the Delaware River is this year’s #1 most threatened river from sea to shining sea in the good ole US of A. The announcement was picked up, according to Google, by no less than 349 news outlets and repeated, almost verbatim, from the American Rivers press release. Here’s how their press release of June 2 beings:

The Upper Delaware River, the drinking water source for 17 million people across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is at risk from shale fracking for natural gas, a process that poisons groundwater and creates toxic pollution. This threat landed the Upper Delaware in the number one spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2010 edition.

“Unless we stop the threat of rampant shale fracking, the drinking water for 17 million people across the Northeast will be threatened by toxic pollution,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “We can’t let natural gas companies fatten their profits by putting our precious clean water at risk.”*

Frankly, the press release is shot full of lies and the same tired scare tactics that anti-drillers find so effective: Drilling will poison your drinking water. Problem is, it doesn’t. But let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good press release! There is not one documented case of chemicals used in drilling a gas well poisoning ground water supplies across hundreds of thousands of hydraulically fractured wells. What is so mind-boggling is that one organization can create a press release airing nothing more than an opinion, and it gets picked up and run as “news” of an imminent threat across the entire country by the likes of Associated Press and CNN, repeated and amplified, until the general population believes the headline. The headline says the Delaware River is threatened—indeed the “most threatened” river in the entire country for 2010. Why? Because American Rivers doesn’t like gas drilling. It’s all manufactured news. In fact, it’s not really news at all.

American Rivers is utterly hypocritical in identifying the Delaware River as “threatened.” To wit, in 2005, American Rivers named the Susquehanna River as the #1 most endangered river in the USA. This year? The mighty Susquehanna isn’t on the list at all. Here’s the thing—Marcellus gas drilling hasn’t even happened yet in the Delaware River basin. The Delaware River Basin Commission has not approved a single drilling permit anywhere in the watershed, even though plenty have been submitted. But there’s lots of Marcellus gas drilling going on in the Susquehanna River basin right now! So if gas drilling would be so dreadfully disastrous for the Delaware basin and the millions who get their drinking water from it, why isn’t it equally disastrous for the Susquehanna basin and the millions who get their drinking water from it? I’ll tell you why: Because gas drilling doesn’t pollute groundwater supplies of any kind—including rivers—and if American Rivers mentioned the Susquehanna (where drilling already exists) on this year’s list alongside the Delaware, it might raise some uncomfortable questions for them.

So what’s really going on here? The people at the top of these so-called “environmental” organizations are trying to manipulate public opinion and stop drilling dead in its tracks. Also from the American Rivers press release:

American Rivers called on the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban any shale fracking in the Upper Delaware watershed until a thorough study of impacts is completed and the pollution potential of shale fracking is fully documented and assessed.*

Now we see the real agenda. Stop drilling, and if you can’t stop it, slow it down any way you can. There’s isn’t any evidence that natural gas drilling pollutes water supplies because such evidence does not exist. So instead, manufacture a scare with headlines in hopes you can buy time to figure out a way to get Congress to kill gas drilling for good.

I can only speculate why anyone would not want cheaper, cleaner energy supplies that benefit everyone, but my guess is that the people running organizations like American Rivers have become so caught up in their philosophy of anti-fossil fuels of any kind, they’re willing to deny their fellow Americans the benefits of cheaper, cleaner energy because they (the self-proclaimed enlightened ones) think we (the great unwashed) should all be driving golf carts for cars and getting energy from wind mills. No thanks. Renewable energy is a part of our future, but it’s not a meaningful and substantial part of our present—and organizations like American Rivers just don’t get that. Don’t fall for their cynical manipulations.

*American Rivers Press Release (June 2) – Upper Delaware Named America’s Most Endangered River

  • “Drilling will poison your drinking water. Problem is, it doesn’t.” “gas drilling doesn’t pollute groundwater supplies of any kind.” “There isn’t any evidence that natural gas drilling pollutes water supplies because such evidence does not exist.”

    Then why are all those people in Dimock suing Cabot? And why is the PA DEP fining Cabot $30k/month for not doing anything about it?

    Just keep saying there’s no problem with drilling, like the well blowout that just happened in western PA, and no one will ever believe anything you say.

  • RSHouck3

    I agree with the post above. I think both sides need to be more moderate in their tone if the undecideds are going to take them seriously. I am sure the Susquehanna is more stressed than the Delaware. And the Mon more than the Susquehanna. There the author has a point. But I sent a chemical client a list of chemicals used in fracing and she said she would not buy a company that had some of these chemicals in the ground. The clean up would be too expensive. We have to take some risks to move away from coal and foreign oil. But those risks have to be moderated and reasonable, effective regulations put in place AND enforced.

  • rancor

    Wait until the HBO documentary “Gasland” shows on 6/21/10–pretty damning evidence of drinking water contamination

  • marlena

    We are not going away. We will prevail against the greed and evil of this drilling. These drilling companies feel nothing for us and care even less. There is karma. STOP DESTROYING MOTHER EARTH AND GET REAL!

  • don’t_tread_on_me

    Point of contention:
    In fact, there are drilling permits in hand. 5 permits out of 14 applications for “Test Wells” have been given by the DEP. Teeple Well in Equinunk has drill in place. Crum well in Milanville also has permit to drill in hand and can do so anyday. DRBC has decided that “test” wells are admissable in the area the organization is supposed to be protecting; so these 5 wells are not covered under DRBC’s moratorium on hydrofracing. Apparently, however, there is no such animal as a “test well” or a “exploratory” well because once the company starts drilling vertically, they have the option to make it into a “production well” if they desire, and if I understand correctly, it can then become a horizontal hydrofracing well.

    Conclusion: Foot in the door.

  • dryeth the bones

    Drilling is not safe. Yes we need energy, but at what cost? Are you willing to poison your kids and grand kids? If not then now is the time to make the change to another source for energy. Last week’s Marcellus shale well explosion in Clearfield was horrible, and if it had happened near homes or a water source it would have been a disaster. That high pressure pocket caused the leak of 1,000,000 gallons of toxic fluid and gas into the area. Today, another Marcellus well explosion, in VA, hurt people and again is leaking toxic gas.

    what will it take for you to see the light?

  • don’t_tread_on_me

    Addendum: Crum well is less than a mile from the Delaware River. If what happened in Clearfield,PA on June 4th happened a Crum, 1.5 million gallons of toxic frac water would have gone into teh North Branch of Calkins Creek right below the well and immediately into the Delaware.

  • unreceivedogma

    Ever been to an auto repair shop that has been closed up for a weekend, opened the door? What does that smell like? Multiply that by 3 or 4 x’s, that is what the water coming out of Victoria Switzer’s tap in Dimock PA smells like. I know, I smelled it myself. If you are so confident in your assertion that “evidence does not exist” for water pollution caused by drilling for gas, I dare you to drink a 16 oz glass-full of water from her tap.

  • unreceivedogma

    from American Rivers website:

    What qualifies a river as “endangered”?

    The rivers on the list are deemed endangered because their fate is uncertain but will be decided in the coming year. In order for a river to make the list, it must be seriously threatened and – through public awareness – it must be possible to save the river from the threat by persuading decisionmakers to do the right thing for the river, as well as the communities that depend upon a healthy river to provide drinking water, natural flood protection, recreation opportunities, and other benefits. (Typical “threats” include but are not limited to proposed development projects, mines or dams.)

    Does “most endangered” mean the river is the most polluted?

    No, the report is not a list of the most polluted rivers in the country. Rivers that are endangered could be in pristine condition or severely degraded. The key factor is that each of the endangered rivers is at a tipping point – we list them because their fate is likely to be decided in the coming year.

    If a river is listed one year and not the next or perhaps never again, does that mean it is no longer endangered?

    For some rivers, this is the case. However, while the report has helped to achieve positive outcomes for many rivers, many others that have been listed continue to face severe threats even though they are not currently or repeatedly featured in the report. There are several reasons a river might not make the list again:

    It is our practice to feature different rivers each year, making consecutive or repeat listings unlikely

    We list rivers that are at a crossroads – even though a particular river may be threatened, there may not be a major decision point in the coming year that will determine the fate of that river

    Nominations come from the local grassroots river community, so if a river is not nominated then we most likely will not consider it for the report

  • jorcheim

    This post is so chock full of inaccuracies and outright lies as to seem to be nothing more than a propaganda piece from the unconventional gas industry. Whoever wrote this tripe, do yourself a favor. At least TRY to be honest so that we can have a legitimate conversation about the manifold issues surrounding shale gas development.

  • Jim

    OK folks, seems I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest with this post. I’ll try and respond to the core issues in the comments. As I’ve often stated, I don’t mind when people disagree with me as long as it’s civil. And I’ll do my best to be civil in return…

    metroart: Thanks for asking a good question. The event at Dimock, PA had nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing fluids (the chemicals in the fluids) contaminating the water there. What happened was poor casing of the drilling hole (the bore hole) by Cabot. The poor casing led to methane gas, natural gas itself, leaking through a crack into the local groundwater supply. This is a rare occurrence. I’m not excusing it or minimizing it at all–it’s a tragedy for the local people involved. But what American Rivers is claiming–that fracking fluids will somehow seep from wells into groundwater supply–is fiction. The hole gets cased (properly), and the fluids go down nearly a mile underground, a mile of solid rock between the horizontal drilling and the surface. Surface water exists at around 300 feet down, so there’s almost a mile of distance–solid rock–between the two. There are NO documented cases of fracking fluids “seeping” up through the ground into water supplies that I’m aware of. The argument then becomes “what if a truck brining the nasty chemicals has a spill near a river” or “what if a truck taking it away has an accident” to which I say, such trucks travel over our roads every day right now throughout the country (and near rivers too). Same with trains that have boatloads of chemicals in rail cars. Fact is, fracking fluids don’t seep up a mile and pollute water supplies.

    RSHouck3: I think your position and mine are not that far apart. I’m not a “drill at any cost” person. I say, “drill, but let’s be safe” and I have no problem with good oversight and strict rules about drilling. I believe the extremists in this debate are on the anti-drilling side of the isle, not the pro-drilling side.

    rancor: I have not yet seen Gasland, but from what I’ve read, I believe it to be Michael Moore style propaganda, i.e., utterly worthless. But, if and when it becomes available locally, I’ll do my best to watch it. 🙂

    don’t_tread_on_me: Yes, some test wells have been drilled in the Delaware watershed as you say. But before they can drill horizontally, which requires a lot more water than a vertical well, the drillers do need a permit. And the DRBC is not issuing them any time soon.

    dryeth the bones: Your premise that drilling gas wells will poison children is false. Gas drilling is already happening in many other areas of the country, and children are not being poisoned. On the accident at Clearfield, I’ve not had the chance to chronicle yet for lack of time, but I will cover it on this blog and make my comments there. Of course I’m concerned about an accident near a major water source. Perhaps there should be a zone around such sources just to be certain no (rare but tragic) accidents would affect the river. I’ll delve more into that in a post.

    unreceivedogma: As stated above, Dimock’s water has been fouled by methane gas, not chemicals from frack fluids. I don’t deny there’s a serious problem there that needs to be fixed. Also, nice try to justify American Rivers’ incendiary press release by quoting from their website about what the list intends to do. What they actually try to do with their list and the press release is manipulate public opinion. Again, they have issued an OPINION–they think if drilling begins, the Delaware will become polluted. I contend that they can’t support that opinion with any specific evidence whatsoever! Show us a major river anywhere in the US where shale gas drilling has caused chemical pollution. I’d like to know when & where such an event has occurred.

    jorcheim: I’m happy to have you correct my inaccuracies. Please give me specific examples of where I’m wrong. I do try to be as honest I can. I may be wrong sometimes, and if I am, I’ll gladly admit it. I wonder if those on the other side of the debate will too?

  • OK– Let’s look at this from a “who gains” view.

    What do the Gas Development Companies have to gain from tapping the natural gas resource in the Marcellus Shale and other places?

    Answer: Lots of money.

    What do the “greenies”, enviromentalists, panty wearing liberals have to gain from blocking gas development?

    Answer: Keeping their homes, water, soil, land, clean, useable, and free of contaminants.

    Case closed.

  • rfscala

    Wrong answer.

    “What do the “greenies”, enviromentalists, panty wearing liberals have to gain from blocking gas development?”

    They retain the status quo. They get to use the land other people pay taxes on by blocking their land rights. They get to keep “the view” at their second home (until, of course, the farm has to be cut into little lots because the farmer is broke). They get to retain their assumed superiority and talk about “carbon footprints” that make no sense, as they drive their SUV back and forth to soccer, heat and cook with gas, gobble electricity with their McMansions, blab on cell phones and comment on blogs. They get to be used by the very rich people who are feeding them this propaganda, which for some reason they fall for (guilt about living green?) even though it actually bites them in the butt in the end. I can go on, but I believe I have run out of space.
    But it is NOT about the water, I assure you.

  • don’t_tread_on_me

    rfscala: It IS about the water. Maybe you don’t think people can and will do something just because they care. I am here to tell you that people like that exist.

    I am not a second homeowner. I am a ten year, full time, tax paying, resident of the Upper Delaware who is a civil servant, never made over $20,000 in my life, whose partner is a blue collar worker and tax-paying resident of over twenty years.

    We are the working poor and have everything we own in our property. We had hoped to stay in PA for…well…ever. Have grandkids come visit and swim and fish in our stream and eat vegetables that have been watered from the stream.

    Much to your chagrin, I will give all the time and resources I have available to make sure regulations are put in place. The Nat Gas companies are historically untrustworthy; they cannot regulate themselves.

    It is too late to unlease all the leased property. The residents who have not leased their property and the residents who have leased their property with strict environmental provisions and the residents who have leased without any provisions– THAT’S EVERYONE–now need help to make sure regulations are strict enough so that all PA residents are safeguarded. We all need to truly and openly look at the damage this industry brings with it, realistically assess it as a community– not just within the confines of the lessors vs. non-lessors– and determine what is good for ALL OF US. For example, lessors keeping info from non-lessors (such a timtables) will only cause more havoc and mistrust. We have to work together NOW to ensure the land does not get irrevocably poisoned. The time to do that is now BEFORE it happens — not after something goes wrong.

    This is prudence and care for a place and people we love — not hysteria.

  • adg1984

    These second home pseudo tree huggar people are trustee babies, from New York City. The only viable
    industry in NYC, and the entire state is finance which is based in NYC.They know upstate New York has nothing left in the way of business,and the speculators [Wall Street and the Banksters]are going long by starving out the upstate landowning little guys into a tax repo situation.
    Then the gas drilling will be wide open in New York State.after the bankrupsey auctions which the banksters will again cash in on.
    This psuedo environmental concern has nothing to do with water or the environment and everything to do with wall street fat cats and speculation; ala fat cats like mayor Bloomburg.Yeah, he’s so concerned about water pollution that he allows the largest city to go without a water filtration facility. What a joke! AS the wild life die an excrete in the resevoirs the people of NYC drink it,LOL.Never mind the coal ash from the power plants settling on the reservoirs,and the acid rain killing the trees etc.
    I was born in New York and lived there for 30 years. I now live in west Texas where the unemployment even in this down economy is at four percent.Oil and gas drive this economy and as a result we have no state income tax since the gas and oil industry have that covered. If you want a job it’s always there.Thats why I moved here from
    upstate New York 31 years ago.Gas will save New york which is currently in bankruptcy. Over 500,000 wells have been hydrofraced in Texas and no water sources have been polluted by hydrofracing.
    Logic will never be a factor in this fabricated water pollution debate,because it was never intended to be by the fat cats. As George Carlin would say:”it’s their club and YOU ain’t
    in it”.

  • AZ

    The Susquehanna Basin has been polluted. Families in Dimock, PA, all of whom had signed gas leases, have sued Cabot (the gas company) because they can no longer use their water, their animals are sick or even dying, and they have constant headaches, etc. Odd contamination has leaked into streams, killing the fish. Out West, where massive drilling operations have been going on since 2005, when the gas industry was given an exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act, many families have had to drink only from bottled water, because their own wells are polluted. They have not been able to sue partly because they’d never been told they’d need to have a baseline water test BEFORE drilling began, and also because the fracking chemicals are kept secret. You can’t sue when you can’t prove what chemicals are being used.

  • alicewanderland

    what lab do you get to test your water before drilling begins which isn’t linked with gas companies? what do pre water tests cost for all the chemicals they use to drill with? Thanks for the help. Alice

  • Tim Ruggiero

    Jim- You stirred up a hornet’s nest all right! The fact of the matter is, tehre are dozens upon dozens of documented cases of contaminated rinking water all over the Barnett Shale as well as the Marcellus, the Industry just refutes every test they don’t do themselves. A bottom feeder gas company, Aruba Petroleum drilled two gas wells on our property. We had our well water tested PRIOR to the drilling and AFTER. Testing results from mulitple testing firms- except the one Aruba used – shows positive contamination for a variety of chemicals commonly used in your ever so safe hydraulic fracturing. One of my neighbors has 11 ppb of BENEZENE in his well water. Another has 1.4. But, since it’s ‘only’ 1.4, the long term ESL, the corrupt regulatory agency stated that the number was “SO low, it could be a false positive.” Any excuse will do to keep drilling.

    The other clear fact is No one tests the water, save for a few involved homeowners. Largely due to our efforts, we are getting the word out, and more and more people are beginning to test their water. The problem with those tests are that the tests are being conducted post drilling, so in spite of the fact that people are just now starting to experience ill health effects, animals are getting sick and dying, your beloved Industry simply says “Since you didn;t test the water before drilling, there’s a very strong possibility the water has alawys been contaminated”. Another neighbor tested her water, and the TRRC also tested the water. Suprisingly, the TRRC did find contaminants- high levels of arsenic, Strontium and DRILLING MUD amongst other things. Where in world could any of these chemicals and heavy metals find their way into her drinking water? Can you run down to your local hardware store and pick up a bucket of drilling mud, Strontium or Arsenic?

    Now you’re splitting hairs as to the cause of the contamination. I find little comfort in knowing in some cases, the contamination didn;t come from fracking, it came from some other form of negligence. So polluters like you can say ‘Hydraulic fracturing is safe’. What you didn’t say was that there are so many other factors, methods and processes that can and have contaminated drinking water.

    Industry will not disclose their precious drilling fluids claiming the formula is proprietary. How convenient. COmparing the drilling formula to the recipe for Coca-Cola is ridiculous and nothing more than a poor excuse not to reveal the chemicals. That’s okay, Jim, we’re obtaining listings anyway, and testing for everything on the list.

    If hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why do you need an exemption from the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act? Why does the Industry have to haul off the millions upon millions of contaminated ‘produced water’ and pump it into deep injection wells? If this crap is so SAFE, why is it not being returned to municipal water supplies or simply dumped into rivers, streams or lakes? Well, then again, it is being illegally dumped into rivers streams and lakes, and I have evidence proving this.

    My family and I live on top of the Barnett Shale, and we’ve had first hand experience with this dirty dealing industry. I’ve also been on tour to some homes and sites in rural PA, where people no longer have viable drinking water, and streams run with visible layers of foaming surfactants. The gas companies there just say “We didn’t do it, and you can’t prove it.” A cattel rancher has lost more than a dozen cattle and horses, and the nearby stream that provides the drinking water for his stock runs with large amounts of foaming surfactants. Drill sites are all around him, yet there’s no ‘evidence’ that the gas company polluted the water.

    This is all about money, and people like you, the Industry and paid for politicians are quick to point out how much in tax revenue is being generated, how many jobs this dirty buiness provides and how we need to get off our dependence of foreign oil. When concerned citizens speak up and demand chnage and actual regulation of an industry with no regulation, millions of jobs are at risk and billions in tax revenue will disappear. Who’s using scare tactics, now?

    In Fort Worth, Corrupt Mayor Mike Moncrief (who makes $600K+ a year on gas investments) claims that the industry pumps BILLIONS into the economy. So why is the City of Fort Worth in the RED for billions of dollars? Where is the money going, Jim?

    It’s all about the love of money, which is a great sin. Money is not evil, the LOVE of it is. Energy companies are blinded by their love of money, and will stop at nothing to feed their addiction.

  • adg1984

    Tim I live on the Barnett shale and I am not aware of any water contamination, Nor is anyone else that I’ve asked including the Texas Railroad Commission. Please provide the names of people and their adresses, or a municipality/county, so we can verify. Remember this is not “Alice in Wonderland”, and just because you say something is so dose’nt make it so.

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  • TimRuggiero

    adg: The TRRC does not find contamination – ever. They are fully in the pocket of Industry, and there’s plenty of evidence of that. WFAA, The Denton Record Chronicle, The Wise County Messenger, CBS and PBS and a number of other people, reporters and photographers have all been out to my place and have DOCUMENTED as well as seen with their own eyes the contamination on our property. The TRRC has also been out a number of times, and has found nothing. Ever. Look up Aruba Petroleum on YouTube, you’ll see some examples. Our most recent water test showed we have Boron and Strontium in our water. Do you really want to split hairs over whether it’s from fracking or drilling? What difference does it make, it’s still contaminated, and was done so by Aruba Petroleum.

    You want names? Amber Smith in DISH, TX has drilling Mud in her well water, in addition to arsenic, chromium, strontium and other crap. Brett Bledsoe out in the Grasslands has 11 ppb of BTEX in his well water. Rob Johnson has BTEX in his water.

    Now you are aware of ground water contamination on the Barnett Shale.

  • Jeaniebeanie

    The very tone of this text on this website screams that it is Republican “drill, baby, drill” lunatics rearing their ugly little heads once again. We all know that fracking causes water wells to explode, creeks and streams to bubble with leeched methane and wildlife and vegetation to die. People die, as well. I can’t believe you pro-drilling types are still thinking that you can make up whatever stories you like and people will believe you! lol C’mon now. We’ve all seen GASLAND and we know, now, what fracking does. Pack up your rigs and take them back to Texas because we, in Northeastern Pennsylvania and New York, are saying “NO FRACKING WAY!”