Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drill Baby, Drill! U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent Will NOT Sign the FRAC Act

U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent

Posted by: Noël Jones

Ok, somewhere I remember hearing that it is advantageous to the art of diplomacy to "praise first, criticize last." It also helps to praise again at the end if possible. So here goes:

1. Charlie Dent is photogenic (see my fuzzy GQ shot above)
2. Charlie Dent is in good shape
3. Charlie Dent is answers questions directly

About 40 people turned out at the Northampton County Courthouse yesterday to attend Charlie Dent's "Open Office" and express a myriad of concerns. Some residents voiced a general frustration with the squeezing of the middle class while Wall Street bankers who continue to fleece our economy go scott free. Some were concerned about health care. A handicapped postal worker with 26 years on the job reported that the U.S.P.S. is firing all handicapped workers without notice. A couple of elderly women spoke up on disability issues, one with regard to veterans' pay, and another with regard to student loan forgiveness. Charlie promised to meet with them privately to address their issues. Another resident called on him to reduce military spending. Charlie only wanted to talk about the need to cut human services (based on a pie chart in his presentation that clearly showed that there is as much being spent on “defense spending” as there is on Social Security).

A few residents spoke up on energy concerns--the desire to see him get behind research and development of sustainable energy sources, like wind and solar power, in light of the recent disaster in Japan and the subsequent revelation that a handful of nuclear power plants within 100 miles of us were not built to withstand earthquakes, nor has the issue of safe disposal of nuclear waste been resolved, meaning that--like the Fukishima plants in Japan--all nuclear waste is stored at the plants themselves, ripe for catastrophe, especially in the event of terrorism. Dent rigorously defended the expansion of nuclear power plants proposed by President Obama, asserting that it was crucial to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and that there was no way to develop enough wind and solar power to cover all of our energy needs. A couple of residents referenced fracking for natural gas, both as a health concern and as a possible job creator, so…

I asked Charlie Dent about The FRAC Act.
The FRAC Act was first introduced by Rep. Maurice Hinchey of NY in the last congressional session to protect against water contamination from natural gas drilling for the15 million of us who get our drinking water from the Delaware River. It died in session before the mid-term elections. The bill seeks to end exemptions for the oil and gas industry from:

The Clean Water Act
The Clean Air Act
Safe Drinking Water Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLA)
National Environmental Policy Act

The FRAC Act would also require gas drillers to reveal the hundreds of chemicals used in their fracking “cocktails”—lists that are currently protected as “proprietary information.” Hundreds of toxic chemicals have been found in frack water, including radioactive material (radium 226), carcinogens (benzene, xylene), neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. People have become seriously ill in areas of natural gas drilling in the last six years since the exemptions took effect, from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians here in PA.

These exemptions were spearheaded by Vice-President Dick Cheney under President George Bush in 2005 as part of their Energy Policy Act. Dick Cheney is the former CEO of Halliburton, a major natural gas driller.

As drillers poise to begin drilling thousands of new gas wells in the Delaware watershed, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is moving full speed ahead to draft new regulations for the drilling industry before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can finish the cumulative impact study currently underway, due to be completed in 2012. Now, Sen. Bob Casey of PA has re-introduced the FRAC Act in the senate.

Charlie Dent has no intention of seeing these exemptions removed. I asked him, directly--With health concerns regarding drinking water contamination from fracking for natural gas in mind, would he sign the bill if it comes before the House? Charlie Dent, our representative in Congress--the one this district elected to represent the concerns of his constituents in this district--said flat out yesterday that he will not sign.

I reminded him that we have all heard in Easton that Cabot Oil & Gas has settled for millions with 16 families in Dimock, PA just two hours north of us, over water contamination proven to result from fracking in their communities. He does not care. He said he believes Maurice Hinchey's intent in proposing the FRAC Act in the first place was to stop natural gas drilling altogether. I reminded him that legislators are not supposed to be voting on what they think the intent is of whoever proposed the bill, but rather the specifics of the legislation before them, in this case, protection for his constituents against drinking water contamination. He does not care. He will not sign.

At least he's honest. And did I mention, photogenic?


LVCI said...

"pie chart... there is as much being spent on “defense spending” as there is on Social Security"

Forgive my annoyance, but every time folks equate the two I become really disturbed. These should be two separate issues entirely.

Defense and all the other spending (other then Social Security) comes out of the regular federal budget. (The money from taxes we pay through the IRS as our regular EIT.) Does not Social Security come out of our paychecks as an entirely separate withholding?

It has become an of extreme annoyance to me EVERONE seems to lump the two as if they come from ONE single source out of our paychecks.

Neither should these pie charts (that represent spending) include the EIT funds that lump it with Social Security spending. The two have nothing what-so-ever to do with one another.

Why have I not heard a single person in the government nor media state the obvious?

Ironically SS funds are in the plus column (if it were not for the borrowed paper promises against the trust) while the federal budget is a disaster. While we're talking about cuts/stealing even more money from the trust, seniors are led to believe they are guilty somehow in all of this.

Talk about scamming.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Good point about Social Security, which is supposed to be like a personal savings account. We shouldn't allow Charlie Dent to cut into the hard earned money placed in our SS savings accounts.

After a hard day cutting SS, Dent can go take a long hard drink from a Dimock watertap.

Let's get real folks. Charlie Dent's interests lie with industry and the rich. Always was and always will be.

David Caines said...

While I agree with you Julie, I think the question for the next vote is ....
Is there anyone left in any party that isn't on board with driving the country into the ground.
I'd like to give some kind of benefit of the doubt here to just about anyone,... but I am at a complete loss for such a person in current American politics.
An aside, ,I refer to SSI/ SSD together with the rest of the budget as it is clear that whatever the law may be our law makers are not following it and also consider it "Spending money".
Now if we can just privatize it, we can find some way to have that stolen too.

noel jones said...

As for politicians who are willing to take a real stand against fracking to protect us from water contamination until the EPA results come back in 2012 to determine whether the process can be done safely or not, we are at a loss on both sides of the aisle.

For the most part, the Republicans are pro-drilling. Our Senator, Bob Mensch is the only Republican I know that has voiced concerns about health risks, but he has not signed onto a statewide moratorium proposed to halt drilling until the EPA study is finished to my knowledge.

Among the Democrats, it's a gold rush for the severance tax to plug budget holes to alleviate painful cuts. Very few state Democrats have signed onto a state-wide moratorium proposed last year by Phillis Mundy. Our local representative, Bob Freeman, has signed onto to specific smaller moratoriums--no drilling 2500 ft from a well, no drilling in floodplains or state forests--and even spoke on WDIY about concerns about radioactive material in the waste water, but has refused to sign onto a state-wide moratorium yet, while pushing for the severance tax.

Governor Rendell imposed a statewide moratorium on new drilling near the end of his term, but he's out of office now, and our new Governor, Tom Corbett, has vowed to lift it, wants to fast-track drilling and doesn't want a severance tax imposed on drillers.

Sen. Bob Casey (D) has reintroduced the FRAC Act to Congress, and Dent (R) has vowed not to sign it.

If anyone has new or different information on where our politicians stand on this issue, please post with links--thanks!

ferebee said...

You know, I am wistful the days when Hometown Hero used to at least pretend he cared about his constituents.

At least you did get a straight answer, Ms. Jones. That is not a common occurrence.

On a much lighter note ;-), GQ picture is GQ. Purrrow.

Michael Laws said...

Noel please remind me to send a better picture of Charlie.

Adrian Shanker said...

Noel - Thanks for your post, and for your question to Rep. Dent.

Luckily, we have one senator (Casey) who wants to keep us safe from water that could literally catch on fire.

Clem said...

Charlie learned long ago how to play the sheeple of the LV:

Publicly, display your moderate, centrist empathy. Show that you want to help everyone.

Privately, take care of yourself.

Just two examples:

1. Charlie, who will be the recipient of not one but, two, public retirement plans, has done nothing to lead on reform in that area. He benefits while his constituents pay.

2. Charlie will not lead so that drilling is done in a way that benefits the economy AND protects his constituents. Instead, he caters to the drilling lobby and the USCofC.

He is the worst type of pol. No convictions of any kind really. Just worried about his own ass.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Michael--that would be great--although I don't know how you can beat my Cybil Shephard soft focus--vaseline on the lens, maybe?

noel jones said...

thanks for posting, Adrian. and yes, anyone who would like to see tap water catching on fire from fracking contamination can literally type "water catching on fire" into a youtube search field...

Reanki said...

Mayor Panto is manifesting responsible behavior where he can in our own backyard. His instincts about this are intact. Lets acknowledge and support that and keep him going in that direction. His voice on behalf of the community will register with people like Freeman where our voices may not. Are there other Mayors out there willing to raise their voices too? What I see missing here from the beginning with the antifrackers is a lack of leadership. No shortage of outrage and righteousness. But no leadership. No strategy.

noel jones said...

Reanki--the "antifrackers" have been raising awareness, amassing public comment to the DRBC and speaking up (with legal representation) at DRBC hearings and other press events, as well as communicating with our local and national officials to garner the leadership you're asking about. the difficulty is in finding the leadership, but some officials are starting to step to the plate. I don't know if other mayors near us have joined Mayor Panto, who has taken a proactive role in supporting the resolution to support the Pittsburgh ban, and following up with our water facilities and communicating with the public, but I know that the mayors of Philly and Pittsburgh are definitely on board, and then there is Nockamixon and Licking Township as well.

The best leadership on this issue is coming from CELDF who is going into communities and teaching residents how they can fight this fight on a state constitutional basis rather than the usual regulatory basis (this is how the bans so far have been accomplished successfully) and hopefully they will be coming to our area soon.

CELDF was in Allentown recently--if any readers attended their democracy workshops, please post and tell us how it went.