Each year since 1986, American Rivers has released its America's Most Endangered Rivers report to spotlight the nation's ten most imperiled rivers. This year, the Upper Delaware River found itself at #1 on the Most Endangered Rivers List. The Upper Delaware River provides drinking water to 17 million people across Pennsylvania and New York. However, this clean water source is threatened by natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale, where chemicals injected into the ground create untreatable toxic wastewater. Until a thorough study of these critical impacts is completed, the Delaware River Basin Commission must not issue permits that will allow gas drilling in this watershed. In addition, Congress must pass the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 to help protect all rivers within the Marcellus Shale region.
The many cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing may render undrinkable a source of water for more than 17 million Americans, while devastating entire ecological systems. For this reason, American Rivers has identified the Upper Delaware River as the Most Endangered River of 2010. Drilling operations run without adequate protections will have an irreversible detrimental impact on the river, and the industrialization due to the many new wells will cause significant financial hardship on the residents of the region that count on the scenic beauty of the watershed to earn a living. Therefore, the Delaware River Basin Commission must protect against adverse changes to existing water quality of the river, its tributary streams, and groundwater sources.
On April 20, 2010, while working on an “exploratory well” approximately 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon experienced an explosion and fire. This event has caused an unprecedented disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon operation was given a "categorical exclusion” – very much like the exclusion the Delaware River Basin Commission is allowing for the 14 test wells proposed in the Upper Delaware River watershed. We need to learn from this mistake and recognize that we cannot afford to take shortcuts when the health and safety of people and the environment is at stake.
The Commission must review all test wells, exploratory wells, gas drilling, and/or water extraction, and a full Environmental Impact Statement must be completed with safeguards in place to protect our roads, our air, our surface waters, our ground waters, and our drinking water resources. We hold our water resources to be too precious to risk depletion or contamination.
Thank you for your consideration.