DELAWARE RIVER — For environmentalists in this region, keeping the natural gas industry out of the Delaware River Basin is a top priority. A years-long battle over the ability to frack in the …
DELAWARE RIVER — For environmentalists in this region, keeping the natural gas industry out of the Delaware River Basin is a top priority. A years-long battle over the ability to frack in the Delaware River is currently waging in the courts. But last December, environmental advocates of the river lost a hard-fought battle.
It began in June 2019, when the interstate regulatory body Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC)—made up of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware—approved the construction of an export terminal for liquefied natural gas [LNG] in Gibbstown, NJ. The project would allow fracked gas from PA’s Marcellus Shale to be transported to a processing facility on the Susquehanna River and then hauled as liquefied methane to the facility in Gibbstown.
A nonprofit called the Delaware Riverkeeper Network quickly stepped in with a challenge and argued against the terminal over an eight-day hearing in May of last year. After delaying the vote the following September, activists anxiously awaited the DRBC’s decision in December.
In the week leading up to the vote, the Riverkeeper Network held a “week of action,” attempting to put pressure on the four state’s governors to vote “no” on the terminal. The issue grabbed the attention of environmentalists throughout many organizations, not to mention actor Mark Ruffalo, who co-penned an opinion piece in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, which called on NJ Gov. Phil Murphy for a negative vote.
But on December 9, representatives from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the United States all voted yes; New York’s representative abstained after trying to delay the vote further.
Following the vote, activists had much to say to the DRBC representatives about their decision. When the River Reporter first covered this story in its news section, it focused primarily on the details of the approved project and the comments from DRBC officials. Here, the activists’ reactions to the vote are excerpted:
“This shameful vote gives the Trump administration one final fossil fuel industry victory and represents a direct and potentially deadly threat to hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania... Gov. Murphy and the rest of the DRBC commissioners can’t claim to be climate leaders while approving massive fossil fuel projects like the Gibbstown LNG export terminal.” — Food & Water Watch South Jersey organizer Jocelyn Sawyer.
“The DRBC has sold out the [Delaware River] Basin and sided with the fracking industry. This is the worst decision the commission has ever made. Their decision is outrageous and dangerous. They sided with the Trump Administration and fracking over public health and safety. By approving this project, Gov. Murphy and the other DRBC governors show they are full of hot air, but this hot air explodes. Their approval basically says they do not care about environmental justice, climate change, or public safety.” — Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel.
“With this vote today, the Delaware River has been dealt a deadly blow by the Delaware River Basin Commission and the governors who are supposed to protect our river, its irreplaceable quality and our communities. If the one agency—the DRBC—that is supposed to be prioritizing the health of the river and its watershed over special interests and exploitation... has abandoned that mission, the future of the river and all that rely on the Delaware is in the gravest jeopardy. We will not take this lying down. We will continue to fight this project in court and in every public arena possible, united with those who want clean water, air and energy until we can be assured the river will be safe from the degradation that the Gibbstown LNG export terminal would cause.” — Delaware Riverkeeper Network Deputy Director Tracy Carluccio.
“Today’s vote is dereliction of duty by the DRBC and [its] governor representatives, which will cause irreparable harm to the Delaware River, deepen our climate crisis and threaten our communities. This project is a relic of the Trump Administration’s support for endless fossil fuel expansion, and that’s why it generated unprecedented public opposition across the watershed. Today’s rubberstamp decision ignores the massive evidence of the harm to the Delaware River. The enormous outpouring of opposition against this fossil fuel project isn’t going away.” — Director of Environment New Jersey Doug O’Malley.
“Every governor who voted for this disaster waiting to happen can turn in their climate leader credentials.” — Founder of Berks Gas Truth Karen Feridun.