Fracking halted in Delaware River watershed

By Stephanie Juris
December 7, 2011

Editor’s note: Stephanie Juris is a senior communication major and environmental studies minor. Here, she gives a first-person report on her own involvement in the anti-fracking movement. On Nov. 18, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware came out against deep shale-gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed.

The last 12 summers of my life have been spent around the Delaware River. Whether it was buying inner tubes and floating miles down stream until we landed at our local hamburger and shake spot, Dilly’s Corner, packing a Chinese takeout picnic so we could watch the sunset from the wing dam or just biking along the canal, I can say with pride that the river has a special place in my heart.

I have always been passionate about the environment, teaching my parents the difference between “Number 3” and “Number 5” plastics, or yelling at friends when they leave their cars idling. I was raised in a very “what-we-do-to-the-earth, we-do to ourselves,” sort of mantra and I’ve always hoped that I could someday give back and ultimately work in cleaning up the Delaware after all these years of basically living in it.

I learned that my father and step-mother’s good friend, the owners of the quarry, really didn’t have a say in what was going on. I decided then and there that I needed to look outside of my parents and take matters into my own hands by enrolling in two classes focused on watersheds (Watershed Ecology and Watershed Citizenship).

These two courses really opened my eyes to an issue that is taking place literally in some of our own backyards. I was introduced to natural gas drilling upon watching, “Gasland,” a documentary by Pennsylvania native Josh Fox. Natural gas drilling, now more commonly known as fracking, involves pumping millions upon millions of gallons of water, sand and over 900 known, toxic chemicals thousands of feet under the earth’s surface releasing pockets of air by quite literally “fracturing” the rock where the gas is kept. The chemicals were previously disclosed and this method was deemed safe by regulators after being exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which was granted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (commonly called the “Halliburton Loophole,” since Halliburton spearheaded the fracking process).

When you hear the term “natural gas,” you perhaps may jump to the idea that it’s a clean-and-green method of utilizing the earth’s resources. In reality, it’s anything but.

With every week that went by, I became more passionate, I was tuned in, even sometimes wondering aloud, “How do we let this continue to happen?” I then found out about how this drilling could soon be approved to happen in the Delaware River, the river that I was raised next to and had spent years upon years creating memories. My first thought was that my children would never be able to tube down the river or camp on Hendricks’s Island like I had done so many times in my teen years. The professor of both watershed courses, Dr. David Dunbar, encouraged me to take action. I found out about a rally that would take place on Nov. 21 in Trenton, N.J. My family and friends all signed petitions urging regulators and the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to open their eyes and to ban the fracking of the Delaware River. The water supply of 15.6 million was in jeopardy.

I had known that the Army Corps were tallying the number of votes they received to ban fracking and were going to vote representing the Obama administration. I also knew that Governor Cuomo (N.Y.) was opposed to drill but that Governor Corbett (Pa.) and Governor Christie (N.J.) were both in favor of fracking; that only left Governor Markell (Del.) to let the vote either go against the drilling or for it.

My friends came home from their schools a couple days earlier than they had scheduled to for their Thanksgiving breaks. I was thankful that we all were seeing how important this was and that I had the continuous support of my family and friends before I went to go rally for the river. My father even called me and made sure that I would know to call him if I had been arrested. Two nights before the rally, I had signed onto Facebook and Twitter. I had been using all of my social media outlets to inform the public of what was about to take place. I even received a tweet from Fox himself. I was surprised to see that there was something from Fox’s Twitter saying that there was big news and to keep an eye on our inbox pertaining to the Governor of Delaware. I opened my inbox and was completely blown away; Governor Markell had issued a statement that he was going to vote against fracking. My heart was overjoyed; I was so concerned and worried about how every single life would be impacted if the vote had gone the other way, that I felt like celebrating.

I quickly called my family and friends and informed them of what happened and we all agreed that we would still rally, not in protest of our river, but to raise awareness of what was happening across the globe to innocent people’s health and water supplies. We gathered signs and marched together with Fox and supporter, Mark Ruffalo. We listened to heartbreaking stories of those whose lives have been impacted by corporate greed, fracking and how people across the country are fighting for the sake of clean water, something that all of us take for granted every day.

You tell your families and friends what I told mine. You go out and you vote and you make a difference. You need to make signs or sing chants in order to get your voices heard. Fracking may not be happening in the Delaware River now, but that could always change. Educate yourself and others around you to ensure the protection of our health, rivers and water.

 

Parents bring their son to a Fracking rally to raise awareness about what is happening to water supplies across the world.

 

Bridget Brady, Mark Ruffalo, Katy Gray and Stephanie Juris after the rally.

 

Step-by-step diagram of how oil companies use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to unlock natural gas from massive shale fields.

 

Bill Monahan fills his truck with water that will be used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at a pumping station in Wysox, Pa.

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