Upper Delaware

As the president of the Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens, Inc. I must respond to Rep. Wendy Ullman’s opinion piece appearing on BucksLocalNews.com and in The Advance of Bucks County.

She said she is “dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural resources of our state.” Well, so are we, as Upper Delaware River citizens. Indeed, we’ve protected our water much, much better than our downstream neighbors.

Rep. Ullman states “clean water is under threat right now” as she is talking about natural gas upstream where we live and have to make a living. Exactly how it is under threat from fracking, she never bothers to explain. She simply asserts it.

What we know, and she apparently doesn’t know, is that natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, has been taking place in the Susquehanna River Basin with “no discernible impact on the quality of water resources.” That is according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which is governed by the same majority as the Delaware version. Pennsylvania DEP itself says as much.

So, how does H.B. 827, the eminent domain bill she was writing about, do anything other than beg for economic fairness for landowners expected to give up their property for the sake of her unjustified fears?

Rep. Ullman also says she was “heartened by the governors’ proclamation to ensure the lifeblood of the Delaware River Valley is fishable and swimmable, its waters able to meet high drinking water standards, and its tidal shorelines and waters accessible to the public.”

That statement doesn’t acknowledge who has kept upstream clean. The only reason there’s any quality water for downstream users is that we deliver it.

And, tell us how, exactly, equal justice under law threatens the DRBC or the Delaware River we’ve protected? All we want is basic fairness — to be paid for what is taken from us based on only unwarranted speculation about some future harm for which there is no evidence. That doesn’t interfere in any way with the DRBC’s right to regulate.

Moreover, contrary to Rep. Ullman’s suggestion “drillers” want to conduct hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin, it is landowners who have been deprived of the economic gains downstream folks already enjoy. We simply want some fairness. Why would anyone be opposed to that?

Rep. Ullman says this issue is personal to her constituents. Does she imagine it’s not personal for us or that she’s the only one who values the river?

Where does Rep. Ullman come off asserting a threat to the Delaware as she drinks the water from the Susquehanna while in Harrisburg; water from a basin where fracking has been going on for a decade with “no discernible impact” on water quality?

And, why in the world does she say “it is critically important that all the Delaware River’s waters are well regulated,” as if they weren’t? Does she really imagine the Delaware River’s waters aren’t well regulated? If she does, then she’s incredibly unaware of the standards that already apply to all development within the Delaware River basin.

The entire upper basin on the Pennsylvania side, in fact, is already designated as High Quality or Exceptional Value water subject to the most stringent water quality standards out there. The latter classification essentially prohibits any development of the sort routinely found downstream. But, there is one kind of development that can meet those extraordinarily high standards and it happens to be natural gas development.

Natural gas wells are routinely drilled in EV waters under state regulations. Water quality has been protected with “no discernible impact” on the drinking water in Harrisburg that comes from those waters.

Yet, Rep. Ullman would deny us, her upstream neighbors who deliver her clean water, not only the opportunity to develop our natural gas resources, but also to be compensated if that right is to be taken from us. That is grossly unfair.

Ned Lang, President, Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens, Inc.

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