The beautiful and powerful Susquehanna River stretches 400 miles, provides drinking water to millions of people, and supports wildlife and unique environments. Yet even with the expansion of natural gas development, no agency has taken the time to understand how it affects the watershed, let alone how to prevent impacts. Working together, we can change that.
Joint release: CLEAN WATER ACTION, DEL. RIVERKEEPER NETWORK, EARTHWORKS, LOWER SUSQUEHANNA RIVERKEEPER,SIERRA CLUB PA
(Harrisburg, PA) – As the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) conducts its quarterly business meeting today, a coalition of organizations strongly criticized the agency for prohibiting public comment at the event and continuing to issue water permits for the natural gas industry without taking measures to prevent negative impacts across the Basin.
In a March 9 letter to SRBC, the groups said that full public participation at all meetings is necessary for the Commission to receive valuable public and expert input, have current information to consider in its permit reviews, and, as a public agency, to maintain transparent decisionmaking.
Yesterday I attended a public comment hearing before the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC). The SRBC is an interstate agency responsible for making important water resource decisions affecting the Susquehanna River basin. Comprised of appointees from Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, and the Army Corps of Engineers, the SRBC met to receive comments on a series of proposed permit applications for water withdrawals intended for use in hydraulic fracturing operations.
This was a do-over meeting. The first one, held December 15 in Wilkes-Barre, abruptly and improperly ended when a number of protesters shouted down the Commissioners as they moved for unilateral approval of all the permit applications without allowing for public comment. The protests clearly rattled the SRBC commissioners. Not used to such public outrage, the SRBC was left with no ability to neither conduct their business nor provide an opportunity for other advocates to speak.
Interstate river basin commissions are based on noble values: sharing resources, not polluting neighbors downstream, and planning so water resources aren’t sucked dry. Then again, ideas are only as good as the people who make them reality. When it comes to Marcellus Shale gas development, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC)—responsible for coordinating water resources among Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania—seems to have fallen down on the job.