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/

Solutions for Pollution

An Open Letter to President Biden

As we kick off the Solutions for Pollution campaign, we call on President Biden to urge him to carry out his responsibilities under our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, by advancing approximately 20 protections across federal agencies that could cut climate pollution in half by 2030, advance vital public health and environmental justice goals, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and create new economic opportunity.

Read the letter below and then sign on here.

To: President Joe Biden
From: [Your Name]

Dear President Biden:

​When you were campaigning for and then elected President, you laid out the most ambitious climate plan in American history, including a pledge to cut climate pollution in the United States in half by 2030 to take the urgent action on the climate crisis that science demands. You rightly committed to fighting environmental injustices and setting strong standards to protect our health and the environment.

To keep your climate promise and protect our health and our communities – especially those that have traditionally been overburdened with pollution – we need action NOW. That is why, together, we are launching the Solutions for Pollution campaign to urge you to carry out your responsibilities under our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, by advancing approximately 20 protections across federal agencies that could cut climate pollution in half by 2030, advance vital public health and environmental justice goals, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and create new economic opportunity. We are calling on you to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies set the strongest possible standards to clean up power plants, transportation, industrial sources, and other pollution–and that they move swiftly as the science demands.

While we have numerous priorities and perspectives, one thing we all agree on is that adopting strong solutions for pollution will protect our health and environment, advance environmental justice in traditionally overburdened communities, and accelerate the transition to clean energy like wind, solar, and other renewables to power America into the future.

Our communities desperately need clean air and a healthy climate. By implementing the Solutions for Pollution Action Plan, your administration will reduce the pollution driving climate change and aggravating chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues that disproportionately harm vulnerable populations, including traditionally overburdened communities, children, outdoor workers, and the elderly.

Time is running out. The longer we delay, the higher the cost of inaction is to Americans in lives, dollars, and harm to the environment. We need your administration to implement the Solutions for Pollution Action Plan now to ensure clean air, clean water, and healthy communities across the country. Climate can’t wait. Neither can we.

Respectfully,
Sign Here

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

Reconciliation Package Must include Strong Manufacturing Measures

Great news! Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light has joined other organization across the state for a sign on regarding the passing of a bold reconciliation package that will help rebuild our manufacturing sector in ways that will deeply reduce emissions while building domestic supply chains and creating and protecting good union jobs for workers and disadvantaged communities.

Serious action is required to address climate change and strengthen the U.S. economy for all. The following provisions must be included in any negotiations around budget reconciliation as well as future climate infrastructure packages to ensure that the Appalachian region can create a thriving manufacturing renaissance in the region.  We deserve it.

Appalachia can and should be a leader in the global economic race to modernize domestic manufacturing.

Several provisions key to building this future include:

  • Key investments to reduce climate pollution in emissions-intensive industries—such as cement, steel, and aluminum. We can reduce these emissions at scale by funding industrial efficiency measures and emissions reduction technology as well as broader supply chain programs.
  • Spurring domestic clean technology manufacturing through measures such as $25 billion in funding for 48C together along with new supply chain production tax credits that expand clean energy and technology manufacturing and onshore key supply chains.
  • Strong funding to strengthen the domestic automotive supply chain, protect workers and communities, and build the electric vehicle (EV) fleet of the future in Appalachia. This includes new funding for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program and manufacturing conversion grants—together enabling over $20B in investments to retool automotive manufacturing to build the EV technology of the future in existing plants and communities.
  • Support Manufacturing Supply Chains and Manufacturing-Centered Economic Development. In addition to investments that support clean technology manufacturing expansion and retooling directly, it is also critical to ensure that we expand and fund the broader programs that provide the economic, technical, and workforce infrastructure and support to strengthen advanced manufacturing ecosystems and communities.
  • Ensure that clean energy deployment tax credits include labor and domestic content standards and support the retention and growth of domestic manufacturing and high-quality jobs.

These provisions would make a historic investment in the expansion and retooling of domestic clean energy, vehicle and component manufacturing, the transformation of our industrial sector to reduce emissions and enhance competitiveness, as well as the necessary efforts to build out robust supply chains for critical clean technologies—all while building family sustaining careers and investing in the communities that need it most.

Any reconciliation package should advance a sustainable economic vision for a 21st century Appalachia—one that is good for working people, communities, the environment and our health. Our communities have many assets, but a sustainable economic future can’t be achieved without significant public investment, strong policies, and responsible economic development approaches designed to maximize the benefit to the community as a whole.

You can read more and sign on here.


UPDATE ON JUNE 6, 2022:

You can see the final letter here.

Now Available: Video of Philly IPL Chapter’s March 8th Program!

Philadelphia’s Community Health Act Will Address Environmental Injustice

Any plans to address climate change and shift our economy to clean energy must consider the impacts that burning fossil fuels and production of other industrial pollutants have had on the health and well-being of Philadelphians. Policies must redress this environmental injustice. The March meeting of PA IPL’s Philadelphia Chapter addresses this topic. Our guest, Andres Celin, Outreach Director for City Councilmember Helen Gym, discusses the proposed Community Health Act and the impact it could have addressing pollution and health threats in urban communities.

Andres Celin Bio:
Andres Celin has spent a decade working in education, youth development, social services, and community organizing in the Latino community in North Philadelphia. He is currently the Outreach Director for City Councilmember Helen Gym and is a Certified Trauma-informed Trainer/Practitioner with Lakeside Global Institute. Prior to his current role, Andres was the Lead Organizer at Youth United for Change, where he worked to develop the political leadership of young people in Kensington. He has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Haverford College, and a Master in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Community Health Act Description:
Councilmember Gym has introduced legislation aimed at redressing the environmental injustices suffered by Black and Brown communities historically overburdened by pollution. The Community Health Act would require the identification and mapping of ‘environmental justice communities’ based on past, present, and future pollution, environmental stressors, health vulnerabilities, and demographic factors. Any permits for industrial use in or near these communities would require the City to conduct a “cumulative impact assessment” that looks at the actual impact of pollution in context before granting an approval — and empower the City to require mitigating steps to prevent harm.

***

The Philadelphia chapter of PA IPL is very active. Chapter volunteers plan workshops, services, and work in coalition with many other groups bringing faith voices to climate justice and clean energy transition efforts, and they bring climate justice voices to faith work. Their monthly meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 PM, and are open to everyone. Particular meetings may focus either on planning or on a particular program.

Now Available: Video of February 9 Meeting in Partnership with JEA!

Methane Emissions and Our Health with PA IPL & JEA

This meeting, recorded Wednesday, February 9, 2022, was part of PA IPL’s ongoing partnership with Jewish Earth Alliance (JEA).

TOPIC:
Methane Emissions & Our Health

Our inspirational spiritual remarks are given by PA IPL Director David Heayn-Menendez.

Then speaker Vanessa Lynch, M.Ed., Field Organizer for Pennsylvania Moms Clean Air Force, discusses methane, its dangerous effects on our health, and why we must reduce emissions.