The infinite fight to save the finite
In article one, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, it states that the people of the Commonwealth have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. The document goes on to state, “the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
To many in Pennsylvania who oppose Gov. Corbett's decision to surrender the Marcellus Shale region of the state to gas companies – without having to contribute a portion of their profits for environmental protection programs – the promise of these words ring hollow and shrill.
Closer to home, however, the timbre of the message is far more resounding, heard most loudly in the hard-line stance on the environment being made by Sen. Andy Dinniman of the 19th District. For years, Dinniman has been a vocal advocate for the preservation of landscapes, waterways and open spaces. At a time when many state politicians quake in the wake of the billion-dollar gas industries foraging both progress and questionable practices into Pennsylvania soil, Dinniman has led the fight to hold these companies to paying severance taxes and impact fees for natural gas drilling, as well as fighting to see that a share of their profits are kicked back to environmental programs.
This past spring, in spite of both public and legislative opposition, the Pa. office of the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] granted Delaware-based Artesian Water Resources the permission to conduct a 72-hour aquifer test near the corner of Newark Road and Broad Run Road in Landenberg, on property they acquired several years ago. At a rate of 200 gallons per minute, Artesian pulled more than 600,000 gallons of water from the ground, in order to determine the potential production value of the well. In a March 5 letter to Cosmo Servidio, regional director of DEP, Dinniman registered his opposition to the DEP's decision, over the opposition of local supervisors and residents.
"The supervisors and residents have raised numerous, legitimate reasons why Artesian Resources' request should have been denied, and I know they shared them with you," Dinniman wrote to Servidio. He didn't stop there; Dinniman provided Servidio with a checklist of his concerns, which included his concern that the water withdrawal would jeopardize the water supply to local residents; that the water Artesian is planning to extract would not be directed to local residents but sold off to outside sources or funneled into nearby Delaware; and that the drilling is inconsistent with New Garden Township zoning laws.
It is not yet known whether legislative efforts to prevent Artesian from ultimately drawing massive amounts of water from the Broad Run well will be strong enough to hold back the potential deluge, but the voices of opposition are getting louder -- and larger -- by the day. The Save Our Water Committee, a grass roots coalition of New Garden residents, are fervently corralling other local citizens to their fight against Artesian. On Oct. 13, the Committee is sponsoring a visit by Sen. Dinniman at a town hall meeting at the New Garden Township Building, beginning at 7 p.m.
Expect the voices at this meeting to be firm, direct and occasionally loud, because when it comes to protecting a natural resource that does not offer us an unlimited supply, watchdogs -- like Dinniman -- become bulldogs.