by Alexander Lotorto
I encourage every reader of this post, pro-Obama or not, to call the Obama For America campaign HQ in Chicago at 312-698-3670, send the campaign a comment online, Tweet the president @BarackObama, comment on his national campaign's Facebook page and the page for your state, "I'm from [your state] and I am opposed to fracking for natural gas. I want the President to vote "no" on more fracking water withdrawals on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission at their next meeting on September 20. We will be watching."
On September 20, as thousands of anti-fracking protesters, including 350.org founder Bill McKibben, mass outside of the Marcellus Shale Coalition's industry conference in Philadelphia for the Shale Gas Outrage rally and march, President Obama has an important decision to make that day regarding his policy on natural gas.
The choice? Whether or not to approve another 16 permits for 28.521 million gallons per day of fracking water withdrawals with his vote on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) that morning at our state capitol in Harrisburg (PDF).
Every drop of water used in the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in central and northeast Pennsylvania is permitted by the SRBC, made up of voting members including governors O'Malley (D-Md), Cuomo (D-Ny), Corbett (R-Pa) and President Obama. Fracking water withdrawals have received unanimous approval for at least the last three SRBC business meetings.
Tragedies across our state have been enabled by these water withdrawal permits while public comment, protests, and pleas for mercy have gone ignored. Their quarterly meetings last December and March were disrupted by impacted residents and allies.
The June quarterly meeting was left alone because much of the anti-fracking movement scrambled to blockade the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, PA and defend 32 families that were being evicted from their homes by Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resources to construct a three million gallon per day water withdrawal facility that would service Texas-based driller, Range Resources via direct pipeline. The pump station was permitted by the SRBC in March and the distribution system was permitted in June. You can watch these videos if you can't believe the magnitude of the Riverdale tragedy the SRBC enabled.
The blockade of residents and allies at Riverdale lasted 12 days and a final settlement with seven remaining families and the company was reached because of our movement's fast-acting direct action and the courage of Riverdale residents. Twenty five families have yet to receive full compensation for their moves and many are in dire situations as Aqua America proceeds with construction.
Most urgently regarding the September 20 meeting, Cabot Oil and Gas is requesting renewed permits for a combined 3.5 million gallons per day of water withdrawals from the river's north branch, not far from Dimock.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has just allowed Cabot to resume fracking at seven wells drilled in Dimock that were suspended due to massive methane contamination caused by failed cement well-casing in 2009.
According to their applications for Susquehanna 2 and 3, "river water withdrawals are required to satisfy [Cabot's] projected future natural gas production demand." Without the river, they could not satisfy their water needs locally with small creeks due to passby flow restrictions and the scramble for water could hurt their financial standing needed to frack in Dimock.
Some families in Dimock settled with Cabot recently and have moved away, but others still remain at ground zero. Other neighbors of mine in northeast and central PA live near gas wells planned by Talisman, Carrizo, EQT, EXCO, Anadarko, and Southwestern who all have water applications up for a vote.
According to their applications, Keystone Clearwater Solutions has submitted three requests to either renew or increase their withdrawals that will service drillers including Shell, Williams (WPX), Seneca, and Energy Corporation of America (ECA), all out-of-state or, in (Dutch) Shell's case, foreign-owned.
It is for this reason that I appeal to all of you for help.
Regardless of your stance on the election, Barack Obama is the president, head of the Democratic Party, and can show leadership on this issue by persuading the two Democrat governors to vote "no" with him. He can begin reparations with the people of Pennsylvania who have been sacrificed by his natural gas policy with a simple vote.
At Shale Gas Outrage on the same day, his Pennsylvania campaign headquarters will be visited by thousands of active, engaged, and organized voters along the march route. It is his choice, and his choice alone, whether or not we applaud him or scorn him for all the world to see.
(Video Credit - Water Defense)