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