A MISSION TO PROTECT THE UPPER DELAWARE
And Our Homes, and Community, and Region…
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) is a collaborative endeavor to preserve and protect clean air, land and water as a civil and basic human right in the face of the threat posed by the shale gas extraction industry. DCS at first focused its advocacy and legal efforts to protect the Delaware River Watershed that provides drinking water for over 15 million people in four states, but increasingly has extended its efforts across New York State, all of Pennsylvania, the entire Marcellus region, and beyond. Our mission continues to be the effort to preserve and protect clean air, land and water as a civil and basic human right, not just for today, but for the future as well.
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability Director Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Township, PA, who has a degree in bioengineering, understood from the beginning the threat posed by the natural gas industry. In February 2008, she gathered together a group of concerned citizens to form this nonprofit organization. The group immediately launched a public awareness campaign through a series of direct mailings and meetings regarding the dangers of gas drilling.
DamascusCitizens.org is the organization’s website built by another DCS founding member Patrick Carullo. The DCS website has served as a conduit for a wealth of information about gas drilling including the latest news reports from several key local and national publications. To date, DamascusCitizens.org has had over several million hits.
Hickory, PA is the source of some of the first stories about gas drilling in this state. DCS videotaped important interviews with Hickory residents, and on May 30, 2008, DCS sponsored a public meeting attended by over 400 local people. The audience watched in stunned silence as those interviews, including the sobering testimony of farmer Ron Gulla, were shown for the first time. DCS has also provided these videos for public viewing via You-Tube, the DCS website and the distribution of 1,000 DVDs.
Dr. Theo Colborn of Paonia, Colorado is an award-wining environmental health expert and co-author of Our Stolen Future. She has become one of the nation’s leading authorities on the hazards of gas drilling. In June 2008, DCS held another meeting attended by more than 300 area residents where DCS member Joe Levine arranged for Dr. Colborn to conduct a live-remote Power Point presentation. In her talk, Dr. Colborn discussed the long list of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of the shale, 91% of which, she said, are hazardous to human health. She has continued to provide invaluable advice to DCS.
Josh Fox’s Gasland is a film about the devastating health impacts of gas drilling in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Beach Lake, Pennsylvania resident Josh Fox is a filmmaker and Artistic Director of the International WOW Company. DCS provided both initial funding and critical backround information for the production of this provocative film, which set Josh on an 8,000 mile odyssey. Released in January 2010 Gasland was recently nominated for an Oscar. The film is being shown across the country and has been an essential organizing tool in this campaign.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in February 2009 that municipalities have the right to restrict, perhaps prohibit, gas drilling through zoning regulations. In July 2008, DCS joined the Delaware Riverkeeper and the American Littoral Society in a Friend of the Court brief filed with the Supreme Court supporting local governments’ authority to enact such laws. Through a recent grant from a Pittsburgh foundation, DCS will be providing pro bono legal assistance to communities in western Pennsylvania to revise zoning ordinances in accordance with this court ruling.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is responsible for regulating water quality as well as any industrial activity within the watershed. DCS has closely monitored all applications coming before the Commission. DCS representatives have spoken at each of the Commission meetings and have helped attract large crowds to hearings pertaining to gas drilling and water withdrawal applications. In 2009, Chesapeake Energy requested a permit to withdraw a million gallons of water per day from the west branch of the Delaware River. After a 7-hour DRBC hearing with testimony overwhelmingly opposed, Chesapeake withdrew its application.
Jeffrey Zimmerman is an environmental attorney based in Potomac, Maryland. He has represented DCS for the past two years, challenging several decisions made by the DRBC. His recent appeal of the DRBC’s decision to allow “exploratory” wells to move forward without permits resulted in the withdrawal from the hearing by the gas industry and property owners association, a huge achievement! As a result, further drilling of these vertical, non-producing wells has been stopped. For the past year, a team of law students has assisted Mr. Zimmerman in his legal work for DCS.
Albert F. Appleton served as Commissioner of Environmental Protection for the City of New York and designed and initiated the world-renowned New York City Catskill watershed protection program. DCS has retained Mr. Appleton to engage with public officials in a strategy to protect sensitive watershed areas. He has been telling public officials that once toxic fluids get into water sources, it is virtually impossible to get them out. He recommends prevention as the only effective strategy. He has been especially influential in getting the City of New York to oppose gas drilling in the New York City Catskill-Delaware Watershed, which comprises the northern portion of the Delaware River Watershed.
New York City & Philadelphia both rely on the Delaware River Watershed for their water. DCS has helped to organize in both cities around the gas drilling issue to take advantage of the clout of these major population centers. DCS formed a sister organization in New York City, NYH2O, which has gone into every borough and most neighborhoods asking the NYC Community Boards to adopt resolutions opposing hydraulic fracturing in New York State. Numerous public forums and showings of Gasland have taken place in both cities. The respective City Councils have both passed resolutions opposed to gas drilling in the Delaware River Water Basin.