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/

EPA Heavy-Duty Rule State Sign-On Letter to Senators

Sign on by FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 by close of business.

September X, 2022

Dear Senator:

On behalf of our millions of supporters, we write in response to the letter submitted on July 11, 2022, addressing EPA’s proposed rule on “Control of Air Pollution From New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicles Standards” (Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-QAR-2019-0055). The letter expressed reservations about EPA’s proposed Option 1. We wish to assuage those concerns and emphasize why EPA’s final rule should strengthen and exceed Option 1.

The Importance of a Strengthened Option 1

EPA must finalize the strongest possible rule to address climate and air pollution impacts caused by heavy-duty trucks. Heavy-duty vehicles make up 10 percent of U.S. on-road vehicles, but contribute 45 percent of the transportation sector’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, 57 percent of its fine particulate matter (PM) pollution, and 28 percent of the sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 40 percent of U.S. ports and other freight facilities are in areas failing to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter. This is concerning, as 72 million people live within 200 meters of a truck freight route, and are disproportionately people of color and lower income. A stringent Option 1 would create significant public health and environmental impacts needed.

EPA’s proposed Option 1 builds on the success of the Low-NOx Heavy Duty Omnibus (HDO) rule, which has already been adopted by California, Oregon, and Massachusetts, and is under consideration in other states. This option would implement NOx standards in two steps, starting in 2027 and align with some state actions after an additional step up in stringency in 2031. Under Option 1, the expectation is that by 2031, NOx standards would be 90 percent lower than today’s standards. EPA estimates this would achieve a 60 percent reduction in harmful NOx emissions, compared to the weaker Option 2 only achieving 47 percent reduction. Finalizing an enhanced version of Option 1 that occurs on a condensed timeline is critical for freight-impacted communities, given the urgency of the issue.

Need to Take a Consensus-based Approach

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to set “standards which reflect the greatest degree of emission reduction achievable through the application of technology which the Administrator determines will be available for the model year to which such standards apply.” It also requires the agency to give “appropriate consideration” to costs and other factors. Following three days of public hearings and a public comment period on this proposal, diverse stakeholders have demonstrated overwhelming support for EPA to at a minimum adopt Option 1, if not a more stringent final rule. These stakeholders included health advocates, community groups, scientists, the business community, emission control manufacturers, state and local elected officials, and even engine manufacturers.

Feasibility of the Standards

Option 1 does not require reinventing emission control systems for internal combustion engines according to extensive multi-year research, testing, and stakeholder engagement from California regulators which concluded meeting a 0.02 g/bhp-hr NOx standard by 2027 is feasible and cost-effective. In addition, Ford, a major truck manufacturer, publicly stated they can meet the standard. Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA) also publicly affirmed Option 1’s feasibility. Meanwhile, other manufacturers are acquiring emission control companies capable of meeting the stronger state standards. A strengthened Option 1 also includes compliance flexibilities to ensure manufacturers are able to meet the standard, incentivize ZEV deployment, and maximize emission reductions.

Unintended Consequences: Diversion of Investment and Labor Concerns

Meeting stringent combustion engine pollution standards and deploying ZEVs are not mutually exclusive, yet there are manufacturers fighting strong standards to “avoid a diversion of investment” from electrification efforts, while publicly announcing advances in zero-emissions technology and significant investments in truck charging networks. In addition, significant investments are available to support them from the recently passed Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Manufacturers have cited concerns on costs, pointing to an unverifiable survey conducted with inflated projections and an industry-funded report lacking peer review. In contrast, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), MECA, and EPA, have published lab testing-backed cost projections that are significantly less than the industry survey.

Industry also argues that these standards come at a cost, causing fleet managers to stock up on older truck models before the new standard comes into effect (“pre-buy”), resulting in a decrease in sales after the standard begins (“no-buy” or “low-buy”). A small group of manufacturers claim these standards will result in job cuts like previous heavy-duty emission standards. However, EPA issued a report in 2021 concluding that larger economic forces–not emissions standards–have been primary drivers of past declines in heavy-duty truck sales, and showed how critics conflate correlation with causation. 

Conclusion

EPA must quickly and effectively address greenhouse gas and air pollution from heavy-duty trucks, and the best way to achieve this is by strengthening Option 1. We hope to have your support and we look forward to continuing discussions on the best pathways to reduce emissions in affected communities and growing manufacturing jobs in this sector.

Signed,
Your Name

Now Available: Video of Philly IPL Chapter’s April 12th Program!

Can PGW Accelerate Philadelphia’s Clean Energy Transition?

The city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) acquires, stores, and distributes natural gas to churches, libraries, schools, industry, restaurants, other businesses, and residences in the city of Philadelphia. The gas is used for heating, hot water, cooking, and industrial processes. PGW employees install and repair the network of underground pipes that deliver gas to consumers. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a fossil fuel. When burned it produces CO2, the major greenhouse gas. When natural gas leaks along the way from well to consumer it contributes to global warming because methane itself is a significant greenhouse gas. Natural gas is a large part of Philadelphia’s carbon footprint.

In order to avoid ever worsening effects of climate change, the UN’s IPCC says we must cut in half our use of fossil fuels by 2030 and eliminate them entirely by 2050. What can and should be PGW’s response to this requirement? How do we wean Philadelphia from its natural gas addiction?

The discussion leader at our April PA IPL Philadelphia Chapter meeting is Mitch Chanin. Mitch is a long time Philadelphia climate activist. He was a leader in the opposition to SEPTA developing a gas-fired electric generating station in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia. Mitch is the co-chair of the Climate Justice Caucus at Reclaim Philadelphia and is also a member of Philly Thrive and Philly DSA. As a volunteer with POWER Interfaith, Mitch is a member of the PGW Just Transition campaign team and has presented testimony to the Philadelphia Gas Commission. We will be talking about the work that has gone on in this area and about the pros and cons of different options for reducing Philadelphia’s reliance on natural gas and encouraging the use of clean, renewable energy.

Sign up here if you would like to join the Philadelphia chapter of PA IPL!

Build Back Fossil Free, 2022 Letter to President Biden

Dear President Biden,

As organizations collectively representing millions of members and supporters, including Indigenous, Black, Brown, and frontline communities, we urge you to use your executive authority to speed the end of the fossil fuel era, protect our communities from the climate emergency, and address the severe harms caused by fossil fuels.

Your first year in office was marked by historic climate disasters, another alarming surge in domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly dire warnings from the leading scientists around the world. From hurricanes and floods, to wildfires and droughts, tens of millions of Americans are directly confronting the dangerous consequences of a warming world. Indigenous, Black, Brown, AAPI and working-class communities are disproportionately harmed not only by fossil-fueled extreme weather, but also targeted by oil, gas, and coal corporations and suffer the health impacts of toxic pollution and ongoing environmental injustices.

You have repeatedly identified the existential threat posed by climate change, calling it a “code red” for humanity, and stated in your first week in office, “In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can’t wait any longer.”

You further promised “environmental justice will be at the center of all we do addressing the disproportionate health and environmental and economic impacts on communities of color — so-called ‘fenceline communities’.” And you elevated the respect of Indigenous sovereignty and ordered federal agencies to strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Tribes.

These statements must be backed up by bolder action. You have the authority under existing law to wind down fossil fuel production and catalyze a just, renewable energy revolution to deliver healthier communities, a livable future, and millions of good-paying jobs. It’s critical that you use that authority as quickly and broadly as possible.

Together, we call on you to take these steps:
— Follow through on your promise to ban all new oil and gas leasing, drilling, and fracking on federal lands and waters.
— Direct federal agencies to stop approving fossil fuel projects, including pipelines, import and export terminals, storage facilities, refineries, and petrochemical plants. Direct the Department of Energy to halt gas exports to the full extent authorized by law.
— Declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act , unlocking special powers to reinstate the crude oil export ban, redirect disaster relief funds toward distributed renewable energy construction in frontline communities and marshal companies to fast-track renewable transportation and clean power generation, creating millions of high-quality union jobs.

The U.S. must contribute its fair share to the global effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with what science, justice, and equity demand. Your administration’s legislative and regulatory climate proposals have not addressed limiting the production and burning of fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change. As fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians continue to block real climate action in Congress, bold executive action is desperately needed.

President Biden, you are the chief executive with immense powers to address our communities’ concerns.

You showed what serious climate leadership could look like in your first week in office when you canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and paused oil and gas leasing on federal lands. The urgency of the moment requires you to return to that original ambition. Fully deliver on your climate and environmental justice promises by using your executive authority to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build a resilient and affordable renewable energy system.