Weekly Press, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Fracking News: Phila area corporation evicts 32 poor families to sell Susquehanna River water to frackersPhiladelphiaMessage 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2012View Source
Fracking News: Phila area corporation evicts 32 poor families to sell Susquehanna River water to frackersBy Iris Marie BloomCommunity Contributor
A Philadelphia area corporation, Aqua America, based in Bryn Mawr, has decided to profit from rapidly escalating Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the Susquehanna River Basin. The pace and scope of the controversial methane extraction technology, high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, or "fracking," is accelerating in the Susquehanna River watershed, which is adjacent to our own Delaware River Basin, where a moratorium on fracking prevails. Aqua subsidiary "Aqua PVR" has purchased a piece of land to build a water withdrawal facility, so that it can withdraw 3 million gallons/day from the Susquehanna River and sell that water to fracking corporations operating unhindered in the Susquehanna River Basin. Aqua’s permit, granted over protest on March 15th in Harrisburg, lasts four years.
The fact that 32 families currently live on the land they’ve purchased, including an 82-year-old widow who’s lived there for 38 years. Despite their rights as property owners, Aqua was committed to evicting the families at the speed of light. Aqua offered $2,500 as an incentive, on March 23rd, for any families that might manage to move their mobile homes (it costs at least $5,000 to $10,000 to move a mobile home, not including porches, storage sheds and other build facilities) by April 1st. Families unable to move their entire home by April 1st would be punished by receiving only $1,500 if they moved out by May 1st. The eviction notice came as a complete shock to the families.
Protecting Our Waters, a Philadelphia grassroots advocacy group which has successfully pushed for a gas drilling moratorium in the Delaware River Basin, along with many allies, alerted area journalists about the ruthless pace of these evictions. The Williamsport-based grassroots Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) produced a short video of interviews with the families being evicted; the families are angry, despondent, and asking for outside help.
"Why this one spot of land, the one spot where our families live?" one family asked. "It’s a long river." The Susquehanna River is over 440 miles long. (to see the families on video: protectingourwaters.com)
The resulting publicity quickly gained $32,000 for the affected families: Aqua backed down from its May 1st eviction deadline, shifting to June 1st; and offered $2,500 for each family to assist with its move, dropping the unrealistic bonus for moving by April Fools’ Day. The families still cannot afford to move.
Faith-based leaders and GDAC in the Williamsport area, where the families being evicted live; and activists in the Philadelphia area, where Aqua is based, remain concerned that the 32 families should not be evicted to make way for fracking, period. "Thirty-three wrongs don’t make a right – they just multiply the wrongs from fracking, which should not proceed in the Susquehanna River Basin anyway," asserted Sarah Lowry, an organizer with Protecting Our Waters (POW).
Four POW activists were among those who risked arrest by standing up – literally – in a Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) meeting in Harrisburg on Thursday, March 15th to oppose the rubber-stamping of over 40 permits for cumulatively billions of gallons of water withdrawals to take place over the next four years. The activists stood, verbally disrupting the hearing by repeating, "I Pledge to Protect the Susquehanna…This is an Illegitimate Vote," while the tri-state Commission voted rapidly and unanimously to approve the massive water withdrawals. The Commission, charged with protecting water quality as well as quantity, has failed to require any cumulative impact study of the life-cycle impacts of fracking in the Basin, as forty organizations in New York and Pennsylvania have demanded.
Dozens of families in the Susquehanna River Basin, including residents in Tioga, Bradford, and Susquehanna Counties, have had their lives turned upside down by fracking, including multi-family water contamination incidents, severe health impacts, damaged land and sickened livestock, as well as social upheaval, increasing air pollution, and industrialization of the rural landscape.
No Health Impacts Assessment has not been done anywhere in Pennsylvania, and no records are kept of gas drilling-related health complaints. The failure rate for Marcellus wells stands at 6.2% for 2010 and 2011, according to Cornell’s Professor Anthony Ingraffea. Currently there are 12 environmental violations per day for Marcellus fracking operations, according to Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The day after the SRBC hearing, even while statewide and national media scrambled to give conflicting reports of the number of water withdrawals approved at the March 15th hearing (because the Commission failed to present the dockets on which they were voting, in print or out loud, no one was quite sure how many water withdrawals were actually approved for fracking), one thing was certain. Aqua had the proof it needed that it could profitably build a large-scale water withdrawal facility and sell Susquehanna River Basin water to fracking corporations. The eviction notice to the 32 families went out immediately.
"Shame! Shame! Shame!" the activists chanted as they left the March 15th SRBC hearing. At the time they were referring to the Commission’s act in rubber-stamping water withdrawals which would dramatically escalate the scope, pace and intensity of fracking in the Susquehanna River Basin. When the eviction notices went out, the shame increased. Aqua is based on Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia far from the site of the evictions and where, thanks to the mobilization of over 70,000 activists, the Delaware River Basin remains frack-free.
"Aqua needs to reconsider the public relations consequences of profiting from the ‘wild west’ fracking business in PA, let alone evicting 32 families with nowhere to go, in an impossible time frame, with an impossible budget," said POW’s Sarah Lowry, of West Philadelphia.
For more information: www.protectingourwaters.com.
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