Big New Jersey Rally Demands Fracking Ban in Delaware River Basin
An estimated 1,000 people rallied outside the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey, to demand a ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in the Delaware River watershed. Public pressure prompted the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to postpone a vote on whether to allow the practice.
The New Jersey Sierra Club and Delaware Riverkeeper were the primary organizers of the rally. Above, New Jersey Sierra Club organizers Kate Millsaps and Nicole Dallara flank actor/director Mark Ruffalo, founder of WaterDefense.org, at the demonstration.
The Sierra Club has been working since 2008 to stop fracking, which injects water and chemicals into bedrock under enormous pressure and poses threats to groundwater, drinking water, and air quality, among other risks. Residents who live near fracking sites have experienced health problems, foul-smelling air, and there are several documented cases of residential tap water catching fire.
The Trenton rally was planned to coincide with a DRBC meeting at the Statehouse to vote on fracking. But the commission—comprised of the governors of the four states that drain into the Delaware River and an Army Corps of Engineers representative—pulled back from its drilling plans and postponed the meeting. The rally went on as planned, with a decidedly jubilant tone.
"Today's rally is a kick-off of a campaign to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel, below, told the crowd. "This is a rally for the future of our river and to protect the water supply for 15 million people. We cannot trust the politicians or the DRBC to protect that water from fracking; we must get them to ban fracking."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill last summer that would have imposed a statewide ban on fracking, instead recommending a one-year moratorium. The New Jersey Legislature officially accepted the one-year ban on January 10.
Terry Stimpful, chairwoman of the Central Jersey Sierra Club, said that while the fight is far from over, "any delay can be very positive. As long as the vote is delayed, the moratorium on fracking in the Delaware Basin remains intact."
Tittel predicted that had the DRBC vote gone forward, it would have split along party lines, with Christie and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett voting to allow fracking, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Delaware Governor Jack Markell voting to ban it.
"We had a victory in stopping the weak DRBC rules from going forward," Tittel said. "Now we must get President Obama and Governor Christie to support a fracking ban. This is just the beginning of the grassroots campaign to get the New Jersey Legislature to override the governor's veto of the Fracking Ban bill and get the DRBC to ban fracking in the basin."
In addition to Ruffalo, three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger and Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox also spoke at the rally.
"We shut them down by swarming them with calls, swarming them with emails, and with the threat that we'd shut down this meeting," Fox told the crowd.
"We need everybody. Keep up the fight because you guys did great!" exhorted Winger.
"We will win the campaign because our future and the river's future are at stake," said Tittel. "There is no fracking way they will drill the Delaware!"