WEST TRENTON, NJ - Over 140 people from around the region showed up at the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) March 6th meeting to demand action on gas pipelines, including (1) urging a yes vote on the Petition submitted by 67 organizations and supported by over 2,000 citizens, and (2) exercising DRBC jurisdiction over the Tennessee Gas Pipeline/Kinder Morgan Northeast Upgrade Pipeline Project (NEUP).
Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, was joined by a large crowd of over 140 people demanding that the DRBC listen to those who turned out today for the meeting. She urged the Commissioners to take public comment and commit to voting to exercise their jurisdiction on pipelines. van Rossum told the commissioners that the crowd was going to hold a spontaneous people’s hearing on pipelines, and the testimony began. In response, the DRBC commissioners called a recess, and the crowd then broke into song, singing This Land is Your Land, and waving signs that said "Stop the Fracking Pipelines" and "Stop the Chainsaws."
Business meeting disrupted
DRBC commissioners reconvened after a few minutes and announced they would move the public comment session up, in order to hear the public. For over two hours, attendees delivered testimony from their seats to enthusiastic applause, defying commands that they comply with a pre-determined order that they limit their comments to two minutes and speak from the front of the room at a microphone that the commissioners would turn off after each two-minute time allocation ended.
When the commissioners attempted to reconvene the business portion of their meeting, van Rossum, joined by the crowd, demanded that the DRBC take action and vote yes on a people’s resolution offered from the crowd, and not abdicate their responsibilities to the communities being harmed by the pipelines. Singing and chanting from the crowd continued, disrupting the business portion of the meeting. The meeting was unable to continue until 3 p.m., when it was ended by the commissioners with their exit from the building.
Public took control
Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, said, "It is very important that the people took control of this meeting to ensure that our concerns and demands were heard. This regulatory body, the DRBC, is supposed to be about acting for and protecting the people. The gratuitous offer by the DRBC to give us an additional thirty minutes of public comment was meaningless without a commitment for a positive vote. So, while we didn’t get the votes for DRBC jurisdiction today, we spoke, and we showed the power of community and our commitment to securing DRBC jurisdiction."
"Today we sent the DRBC a message that they have to do their jobs and protect the Basin not only from fracking, but also from the devastating impacts that these pipelines cause by cutting through our watersheds and leaving toxic chemicals behind, which threatens the drinking water for 17 million people. This is a message not only for the commissioners, but to the Governors of the Don’t Ruin the Basin Commission," stated Jeff Tittel, Executive Director, NJ Sierra Club.
"We've tried to make the system work, to insist that the DRBC do the right thing so that gas pipelines do not slash and burn the watershed. But they haven't listened and taken the action their compact requires, so we had to seize the moment today to speak for the Delaware River Watershed," said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
"Today the people have spoken up to protect our Delaware River. Concerned citizens will continue to hold the DRBC accountable for their decisions and actions regarding destructive shale gas development and infrastructure buildout. Democracy can be loud and a bit messy, but it is essential," said Jill Wiener of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.
'DRBC should be ashamed'
"More than six years after the shale gas industry first began poisoning Pennsylvania's waters, the DRBC should be ashamed to hide from its responsibility to regulate fracked gas pipelines," said Iris Marie Bloom, Executive Director of Protecting Our Waters. "These pipelines, and with them compressor stations with rampant toxic emissions, are ramping up a whole new level of assault on our watershed. Protecting our water requires us to protect our forests, wetlands, air and overall ecological health. The DRBC must not abdicate their responsibility to regulate pipelines. Further, they have an ethical responsibility to stop every pipeline they can stop, because pipelines induce fracking, which accelerates climate change in addition to harming our health. DRBC, help us take a step back from the climate cliff instead of jumping off it!"
"The DRBC is mandated to protect the resources of the Basin and focuses on water, but without a total ecology you don't have clean water. The pipelines impact many aspects that the DRBC is required to oversee," said B. Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.
"DRBC has a unique role to play in protecting the Delaware River Basin from the impacts of irresponsible gas production and development. Riverkeeper urges the Commission to grant our coalition's petition and exercise its clear authority over gas pipeline construction within the Basin as soon as possible," stated Mike Dulong, staff attorney of Hudson Riverkeeper.