Letter supporting a full fracking ban to the Delaware River Basin Commission

Sign on to this Action Network letter here!

To: DRBC Commissioners –

You adopted a permanent ban on fracking throughout the Delaware River Watershed last year, a historic and righteous decision by the DRBC. The public has been clamoring since then for you to complete the job and prohibit the pollution and depletion caused by fracking taking place elsewhere by revising the pending fracking regulations and voting for a full ban.

This will protect both the Watershed’s communities – human and nonhuman – and its irreplaceable water supplies for up to 17 million people by prohibiting the fracking industry’s effort to dump its toxic and radioactive wastewater in the Basin and preventing their use of Delaware River water for water-intense, wasteful and destructive fracking processes. In 2018, the fracking industry produced 2.9 billion gallons of wastewater[1] in Pennsylvania alone, and the longer well bores being drilled since 2018 mean even higher volumes of both water use and resulting toxic wastewater.[2] The industry is searching for new places to exploit, which is why they are knocking on the Delaware River Basin’s door.

A full ban will also ensure that the DRBC’s regulations do not enable the industry to emit considerable greenhouse gasses by continuing to frack without restraint. DRBC must do its part to restrain the polluting fracking industry and the spewing of methane, the most powerful of greenhouse gasses on the all-important 10- and 20-year time scale.[3] In other words, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today! And this is part of DRBC’s mission.

The climate crisis appears unrelenting as we face record-breaking heat waves, storms, fires, droughts and flooding, nationwide and globally. People are demanding an all-out offensive by leaders and all branches of government to fight climate change. To reach goals that scientists say we need – like 50% reduction of GHG by 2030 – decisive action at the regional and state level is more important than ever to move us away from polluting fossil fuels and towards clean renewables.

This is where you come in, Commissioners. The DRBC has recognized that climate change is directly affecting its water resources program.[4] Climate change impacts on the basin’s water resources include changes in precipitation and runoff that increase flooding and drought, impairment of habitats and water quality (including salt water intrusion to Delaware Estuary water supplies) and sea level rise.[5]

Reports covering the specific impacts of climate change on the Delaware River, Estuary and Bay back up this conclusion. A 2019 report from Rhodium Group ranks Salem and Cape May counties among the 3 NJ counties that are expected to experience the highest increase in average annual damage costs due to changes in sea level and hurricane activity since the 1980s.[6] A Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission report found that sea level rise would result in rising water levels in the Delaware Estuary, causing permanent change to the landscape and new flooding.[7] In an earlier DVRPC report, the study concluded that sea level rise over the next 100 years will inundate almost all of Pennsylvania’s 1,500 acres of tidal wetlands along the Delaware, the salt line in the Delaware River will migrate further upstream (threatening Philadelphia and South Jersey’s drinking water supplies), and pollutants in contaminated sites could be released into estuary waters.[8]

Will DRBC allow the fracking industry to take advantage of the Delaware River watershed to get rid of its polluting wastewater and deplete our water by fracking, all the while emitting climate-killing methane? Or will DRBC do the right thing by prohibiting this abuse?

Here in the Delaware River Watershed, our future hangs in the balance as you decide on final regulations regarding fracking wastewater and water operations in the Basin. We, the undersigned, ask you, the voting members of the DRBC, to revise the draft regulations to completely ban imports of fracking wastewater and exports of water for fracking, to protect the public, water supplies, the watershed’s ecosystems, and to help alleviate the climate crisis.

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[1] https://www.fractracker.org/2019/10/want-not-waste-not-fracking-wastewater/

[2] The supersized gas wells being drilled today in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations use 10-20 million gallons of water per well. According to FracFocus data, the average well in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale used 11.4 million gallons in 2017, up from 4.3 million gallons reported by agencies in 2011. This means not only more water is needed to fracture the extended horizontal well bores but also means there are greater volumes of wastewater produced by these wells – between 1-1.5 million gallons of wastewater (for 10 M gallons of water used in fracking a well), increasing the volumes many times over the amount typically produced previously in Pennsylvania. FracTracker Alliance Issue Paper, “Potential Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas on the Delaware River Basin”, March 20, 2018. Main Author: Matt Kelso. https://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/sites/default/files/FT-WhitePaper-DRB-2018%20%28003%29.pdf

[3] Natural gas is primarily methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more efficient at warming the atmosphere than carbon over a 20-year time frame (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and its effects persist for hundreds of years (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/01/03/1612066114.full) The well documented vented and fugitive losses from natural gas systems contribute to atmospheric warming; current technology and practices have not controlled these releases.

[4] https://www.nj.gov/drbc/library/documents/Res2019-08_EstablishesACCC.pdf

[5] https://www.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-water-resources

[6] RHODIUM GROUP, “NEW JERSEY’S RISING COASTAL RISK”, October 2019. p. 2 https://rhg.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rhodium_NJCoastalRisk_Oct2019final.pdf

[7] DVRPC, Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA, Introduction and Project Background, November 5, 2019. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=8080c91a101d460a9a0246b90d4b4610

[8] DVRPC, “Sea Level Rise Impacts in the Delaware Estuary of Pennsylvania”, Product No.: 04037, 6/2004, Abstract. https://www.dvrpc.org/Products/04037/

Fracking Ban in Allegheny County Parks

June 16, 2022

As an Allegheny County resident, past Sustainability Manager with Allegheny County, Chairperson of the Mt. Lebanon Environmental Team and, particularly, as Development Associate with Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL), I am writing to request that you vote yes in support of the bill proposed by Councilpersons Olivia Bennett, Jack Betkowski, Bethany Hallam, Michelle Naccarati Chapkis, and Anita Prizio to protect Allegheny County’s parks from new fracking and industrial development, Bill No. 12162-22.

I was born in Allegheny County in 1960, and have seen significant changes in air & water quality over my lifetime. When I fished in the North Park Lake and the Allegheny River with my father in the 1960s, we caught fish that had tumors in their bodies & ulcers on their skin, and we caught frogs & salamanders that had more than four legs and two tails. As a science teacher, my father explained that these conditions were caused by air & water pollution. He enforced a strict catch and release policy for fish because he did not want his family to ingest pollutants that were concentrated in the fish’s bodies.

Then, we witnessed air & water quality and riparian health improvement after the passage of the Clean Air & Clean Water Acts in the 1960s & 1970s. The improvement went so far as to draw sport fish back to Pittsburgh, permitting sport fishing tournaments, such as the Bassmaster Classic, at Point State Park in 2005, and others.

After living out of state for 15 years, I returned in 1998 to raise my family the way that I had been raised, with a strong connection to our beautiful environment in SW PA. We recreated in Allegheny County and other parks & recreational areas for twenty-four years. My children have grown up and moved away, but, now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we still visit North Park, South Park, and Settler’s Cabin Park to listen to music, hike, bike, walk our dog, and kayak. Please vote yes to protect our parks for people of all ages and interests.  

Our Allegheny County parks are our treasures, connected by beltways similar to the Boston Emerald Necklace of parks. We know that unconventional shale gas drilling, or fracking, has been linked to dangerous airborne radiation, toxic air pollution (like benzene), and harmful water pollution. Let’s continue the improvement of air & water quality. Let’s not go backwards. Let’s protect all of our green spaces in order to improve human & environmental health, by not permitting unconventional shale gas drilling, and other forms of industry, in our parks and recreational areas. Please vote yes to protect ourselves and other plant & animal species.

Many of our Allegheny County Councilpersons and employees are people of faith. PA IPL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that inspires and mobilizes people of faith to take bold and just action on climate change. As Development Associate with PA IPL, I urge you to reach inside your hearts. Please vote yes to protect our parks as your faith dictates.

Respectfully Submitted,

Kathleen A. Hrabovsky
Development Associate
PA Interfaith Power & Light

Support for Bill No. 12162-22

Ban Fracking from Allegheny County Public Lands

June 9, 2022

PA IPL would like to share Dr. Patricia DeMarco’s letter in support of Bill No. 12162-22, to ban from Allegheny County public lands all slick-water hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations and other industrial activities noted in the proposal.

Dr. DeMarco, a PA IPL board member, is the Vice President of the Forest Hills Borough Council. She advocates for this ban on fracking on behalf of the citizens of the Borough of Forest Hills, and for the children present and future who have no voice in these matters.

You can read Dr. DeMarco’s full letter here.

Additionally, you can find Dr. DeMarco’s Appendix A. Fracking Exemptions from Federal Laws here.

100% Renewable Energy — Rev. Dr. Vincent Kolb’s remarks

On June 19, 2019, the Rev. Dr. Vincent Kolb (pastor of Sixth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh) gave remarks at the 2019 100% Renewable Lobby Day rally organized by our friends at PennEnvironment.

He’s kindly shared his remarks with us here. Since these remarks were necessarily brief, at the end you’ll find a few links to learn more about the exciting energy resolution of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. Prefer video? His remarks begin at 27 min here.

Good morning!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

We have gathered today because we have a beautiful dream: 100% renewable energy for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2050.

I am here to tell you that people of faith in southwestern PA are working hard to make this beautiful dream a reality. In Pittsburgh Presbytery in 2017, our region of churches submitted a resolution to our national church to divest our national resources from fossil fuels. This is a part of a growing worldwide movement, as clean, renewable sources of energy become responsible and profitable investments. Today, approximately 5.5 trillion dollars have been divested from the fossil fuel industry and faith-based organizations are leading the way at 27% of those institutions making divestment commitments!

We have begun a region-wide effort to provide congregations the opportunity to convert to renewable energy sources: solar panels on roofs and undeveloped properties, cooperative purchase of energy needs, affordable energy audits for aging facilities, and the establishment of neighborhood solar cooperatives. This is in keeping with the vision of Mayor Bill Peduto and our City Council in Pittsburgh, which have pledged the Steel City to be 100% clean energy by 2035.

At the same historic Presbytery meeting in December of 2017, our regional body condemned the construction of the Shell Cracker plant in Beaver County, that will emit 2.25 million tons of CO2 annually in a region that is already in the top 2% for cancer risk because of air pollution. We want our region to be a clean energy hub, not a new cancer alley!

We are part of a faith tradition that has affirmed our responsibility to care for the earth as our home and care for all people, especially our most vulnerable populations who are at risk for cancer, disease, and asthma.  Clergy and lay people of faith will continue to advocate for the care of our home, because our sacred scriptures have commanded us to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

Rev. Kolb as the crowd begins to assemble on the steps in the Capitol Rotunda

Who wants 100% renewable energy in PA? We do!
Who wants 100% renewable energy in PA? We do!

Thank you!

Want more? Click through to:

  • sign up to host a screening of Paris to Pittsburgh, a National Geographic film that features work cities, towns, and states are doing to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • learn about the massive petrochemical complex including an multi-state underground storage facility and the first of several gargantuan “cracker plants” which use “wet gas” from fracking for plastics manufacturing.
  • read the three-part resolution itself.
  • peruse the FAQ page that FossilFreePCUSA created in advance of the the 2018 national divestment overture.
  • join PA IPL’s monthly Policy Update calls to stay current on state and federal climate and clean energy policies. Each month includes positive news, a discussion hook, and one state and one federal action item.



April 2018 newsletter: Earth Day – Birth and Brokenness

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
   the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
Psalm 98:7-8

Most celebrations of Earth Day tend toward the practical, or a simple celebration of the birth of our finall-visible spring, but the widespread celebration of Earth Day is in fact rooted in the conversation between awe and grief.

Awe inspired by the 1972 image of blue marble from Apollo 17 and collective grief came with the publication of Pennsylvanian Rachel Carson’s 1968 book Silent Spring, which engaged imagination to move readers to feel the deep grief of a future foretold by then-current action and inaction.

As faith communities, on Earth Day we are called to hold these things together —this awe and this grief— for without one, the other cannot be.  If we did not love our Common Home and our neighbors, there would be no call for lament, and no need for action.  But we do.

And so for us, Earth Day is not one-off birthday celebration, but rather can be a day to celebrate and commit ourselves to work —practical and joyful work, and prayerful and grief-tender work— with and for one another throughout the year.  Some work we may take on as practical necessity, some we may take on as spiritual discipline, as a way of finding our way back into right relationship with neighbor and squirrel, stream and Source.

On this Earth day, let us seek, reveal, and feel connection with the earth and all who dwell therein.  May we continue in determined and active hope.

Celebrate Earth Day with your faith community!

Earth Day is on Sunday, April 22, 2018.
Read on for resources, and a really important poem.

Continue reading April 2018 newsletter: Earth Day – Birth and Brokenness

Denominations Call for Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

One of the ways that some religious communities are taking action to protect life and care for creation is to transition away from support of fossil fuels at a policy and governance level.

elcafinalIn August 2016, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted at its Churchwide Assembly to move “Toward a Responsible Energy Future.” Read the full text of the statement on page 5 here.

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In July 2015, the thirtieth General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) approved a resolution calling for its pastors, conferences, and members to advocate for a swift transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

UCC_logo“It is our belief,” the resolution states, “that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is among the most compelling and urgent issues of our times.” Further: “…If we do not immediately decrease our use of these fuels and completely eliminate them by the year 2014 all life on earth will likely experience previously unknown devastating results including drought, wildfires, extreme precipitation and cyclones, drinking water scarcity, diminished food production, population migrations, human mortality, violent conflicts, and species extinction, thereby upsetting the whole ecology of Earth.”

The full text of the resolution is available for download here.

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UUA logo_gradientIn June 2014, the Unitarian Universalist Association approved a resolution calling for divestment from fossil fuels at its annual General Assembly. It says, in part: “The climate crisis threatens Earth systems through warming, destabilization of the atmosphere and climate, sea level rise, and the acidification of the oceans, of which the brunt of the burden has fallen and will fall on the poorest people in the world, who are least responsible for the crisis.”

The full text of this resolution is available online here.