Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Susquehanna: Most Endangered River in America

Today the Susquehanna River Sentinel reported that the group American Rivers has declared the Susquehanna River to be the "Most Endangered River in America."

American Rivers: Most Endangered Rivers of 2011 Announced Today!

From the American Rivers announcement:
For the second year in a row, the most endangered river in the United States is a victim of natural gas development and the hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” We put the Susquehanna River at the top of this year’s list, citing the rush to develop natural gas reserves in the region without considering the significant risk to clean water and public health.

Of course, the fracking industry was quick to go on the offensive, as quoted in today's Citizens' Voice and cited by the Fracking Underground:
In a statement, Marcellus Shale Coalition president Kathryn Klaber said, "Despite the fact that the livelihoods of nearly 25,000 Gulf Coast residents are now hanging in the balance as the Mississippi River continues to swell at unthinkable rates, this organization - which ironically claims to stand 'up for healthy rivers so communities can thrive' - is seeking nothing more than to undercut the responsible development of clean burning, job-creating natural gas."

Klaber continued, "Our work can and must be balanced with the protection of our environment, especially our water resources. It's very sad and predictable, however, that some organizations will stop at nothing, disregarding facts and science at every turn, to thwart American energy production."
So.  Calling out the threat posed to the Susquehanna River by irresponsible fracking operations is, in the words of an industry mouthpiece, "nothing more than to undercut the responsible development of clean burning, job-creating natural gas."  True colors are showing here.  When the mouthpiece says "Our work can and must be balanced with the protection of our environment, especially our water resources," what does she mean by "balanced?" That a certain amount of environmental destruction must be accepted on a local level, an acceptable sacrifice that must be made so that - well, what?  I was going to say "so that America's never-ending hunger for energy resources can continue to be fed," but that's not exactly true: much of the gas extracted from Marcellus Shale using fracking techniques that threaten the local environment and the health of the Susquehanna itself is actually earmarked for overseas export. Indeed, much of the natural gas extraction being done in Marcellus Shale territory is being financed by foreign interests.  The only people who truly stand to benefit from this situation are the ones selling the gas and gas rights.  Everyone else must bear the cost and, like Atlas holding up the sky, shoulder the environmental burden brought on by irresponsible and destructive extraction practices.

We who live in Coal Country know how this story goes.  We've lived with culm banks, coal slag, mine subsidences, and poisoned waterways our entire lives. The coal companies long ago closed up shop and walked away from the damage they brought upon this area.  A few people became very wealthy, a lot of people toiled in the mines and the coal breakers to make them wealthy, and the entire region was burdened with a legacy of environmental devastation.

Two hundred and fifty-eight days ago, according to the counter on the Susquehanna River Sentinel, nearby fracking activity resulted in the a change in the Susquehanna in one region: methane bubbles began to be released from the floor of the river, bubbles that had never been there before.  Damage has already been done to the Susquehanna - perhaps irreparable damage.  The Susquehanna is considered the most threatened river in the United States because of the threat posed by irresponsible gas extraction practices, and because of a political environment that eschews regulation in favor of unrestricted exploitation.  What can be done to change this?

Congratulations to Don Williams, the Susquehanna River Sentinel, on his efforts to bring the attention of American Rivers and the public at large to the threats posed to the Susquehanna River.

1 comment:

Don Williams said...


Thanks for the post & the comments. Getting this designation, especially the #1 ranking, was not a walk in the park. Now let's see what develops.

Be well.