Save the Delaware River Basin



An Open Letter to Lisa Jackson from Josh Fox, Please Intervene in Dimock!

An Open Letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Intervene in Dimock, because the State of Pennsylvania has Failed.

By Josh Fox

Dear Administrator Jackson-

I am writing to you on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, appealing for your help in a matter of dire urgency.

Earlier this year, you gave me your word that you would apply federal EPA’s might and enforcement capabilities when State governments were failing to protect citizens.  I am writing to you to appeal for EPA’s immediate intervention on behalf of families in Dimock, Pennsylvnaia who have been contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas fracking activities.  We urgently need EPA to step in and take over for Pennsylvania DEP and Governor Tom Corbett’s abject failure to appropriately respond.

Before I go further into the details, I would like to thank you personally for all of your excellent work on fracking.  The people of gas drilling areas have cried out for help and you and your EPA have come to their aid time and time again.

I am sincerely grateful for how responsive you have been to the nation’s outcry for help in curtailing and researching the damage being done by fracking for natural gas.  Under your leadership, EPA has truly been listening to the citizens urgent complaints about fracking and fighting for environmental justice.

You heeded the citizens call to investigate groundwater contamination in gas drilling areas and you initiated a careful and transparent 2 year groundwater study. We asked you to address the crisis of air pollution in gas drilling areas and to look into the extreme abuse and mishandling of toxic flowback wastewater from the fracking process and you have initiated the adoption of strong new rules in both categories.

When you sat down for an interview with me for Gasland 2 this year, I asked you to work with me and my staff as we identified cases that needed federal attention.  My exhaustive (and exhausting!) 3 1/2 years of ongoing research into the catastrophe of gas fracking in the USA has brought me intimate knowledge of dozens of extreme cases of water contamination in gas fracking areas and the hints of information into hundreds if not thousands more cases in the US.

Today, I am asking you to pay attention to the water contamination cases of 11 families in the now infamous and beleaguered disaster area known as Dimock, PA.

Dimock was the first stop on my tour of gas drilling areas throughout the USA for my film, GASLAND in February 2009.  It is just 60 miles from my home in Northeastern PA, an area which has also been leased in large part for fracking and drilling.  When I first got to Dimock, I was in utter shock at the sheer destruction that had taken place in just a few months of drilling and fracking there.  The town was swarming with gas drilling and fracking trucks from Halliburton and Cabot Oil and Gas and there was a palpable state of fear and dismay from the residents who had been overrun by a drilling industry that was running rampant over their previously beautiful and bucolic town.

Dimock first made the news when resident Norma Fiorentino’s water well spontaneously exploded on New Years Day 2009, throwing the concrete well covering into the air and spreading debris throughout her yard.  Many other cases of water contamination quickly followed:  water with explosive levels of thermogenic natural gas, water which tested positive for industrial fracking chemicals, water that had turned black, water which made animals and residents sick after drinking.  In a few short months of drilling, Dimock had become a disaster area, its residents shellshocked.

In those early days, most residents were very shy of the media and were afraid to speak out about what was happening to them.  They are decent, hard working people, striving to maintain a middle class foothold and who are not the type of folks who go running to the nearest reporter or lawyer when something wrong happens to them.  They gave the gas companies the benefit of the doubt, contacted them to try to help and, most importantly, sought help from the PA DEP to determine the problem.  What happened after that is a disgrace to the state of Pennsylvania and to our nation.

Cabot Oil and Gas continually harassed the residents and denied any wrongdoing.  They mounted a smear campaign against those complaining of water contamination and stirred up local resentment against the families, publishing full page ads in local papers claiming that the families whose water was contaminated were being dishonest.

In October 2010, PA DEP, under the auspices of then Governor Ed Rendell and Secretary John Hanger, determined that Cabot Oil and Gas had contaminated the residents water, and recommended that a municipal water line be built to serve the families.  The water line would cost 12 million dollars.  Pennsylvania stated it intended to sue Cabot Oil and Gas to pay for it.  It was the intention of the designers of the water line within the Rendell Administration to create a policy precedent in Pennsylvania for fracking:  contaminate water, pay for the restoration of clean water to residents.   PA DEP also ruled that Cabot Oil and Gas had to supply replacement water to the families until the water line could be built.

Cabot Oil and Gas continued to deny that they had anything to do with the contamination and posed numerous challenges to the water line, effectively miring the solution in political controversy in the waning days of the Rendell Administration.

A few months later, Governor Tom Corbett took office, backed by 1.6 million dollars in campaign contributions from the gas industry, appointing Michael Krancer head of DEP.  The permanent water line was cancelled, and the DEP stopped returning the families phone calls.

Up until November 30th Cabot Oil and Gas has ben delivering bottled water and water for showering and cleaning to the families in large tanks (known as water buffaloes) to the families.  But on November 30th the water stopped.

In spite of numerous contaminants in the water linked to fracking and in spite of continued high levels of methane in the water, Tom Corbett’s PA DEP told Cabot that they no longer had to supply replacement water.  Tom Corbett’s administration, beyond all sanity, has determined that Cabot Oil and Gas has no more responsibility in this matter, leaving families are on their own, without water.  According to Tom Corbett’s DEP, the water contamination just magically disappeared.

Tomorrow, along with Mark Ruffalo, RiverKeeper, NRDC, Frack Action, United for Action and a host of other groups, I am traveling to Dimock with a water truck from New York State to deliver clean water to the families.

We need EPA to step in.  We need EPA to hold Cabot Oil and Gas accountable and continue the water delivery to Dimock.  And we need EPA to join us in asking that Tom Corbett and PA DEP be investigated by the PA Inspector General for corruption and violation of the state constitution.

Alongside of residents and numerous organizations and advocates for the families, that a thorough investigation take place, similar to the investigation in Pavillion, Wyoming that has been so rigorous and revelaing.  There is a pattern of contamination that is happening here that needs an in depth scientific investigation.  And it is crucial that the families immediately receive replacement water as this investigation is taking place as is their right as Pennsylvanians and as Americans.

We would like to ask you to help bring the facts of this case to light and to aid in the following considerations:

– Carter Road in Dimock should be considered a disaster area: eleven families are without safe water to drink and living in hazardous conditions. The State of Pennsylvania and the gas company that caused the contamination should provide relief, but if they refuse, EPA should join with citizens and elected officials to get the job done, because it’s the right thing to do.

– The DEP determined in 2010 that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp’s fracking activities were to blame for severe water contamination and ordered that a water pipeline be constructed. But plans for the pipeline were later scrapped as the Corbett administration came into office.

– If this were a flood, a hurricane, or other natural disaster, there would be no question that victims deserve relief—but Mother Nature doesn’t make campaign contributions. The oil and gas industry, however, has spent $747 million dollars on campaign cash and lobbying expenditures to influence Pennsylvania elected officials at the federal and state levels, according to a recent report from Common Cause PA.

– Governor Tom Corbett alone received $1.6 million dollars in campaign contributions, in what would be a violation of federal campaign donation limits.

– The State of Pennsylvania has clearly failed its citizens, and put the profits of a powerful industry before the health and safety of ordinary people. The Pennsylvania Inspector General should investigate the DEP’s failure to fulfill its regulatory responsibility, and look into possible undue influence of oil and gas interests with both the DEP and the Corbett administration.


– The United States Environmental Protection Agency should intervene in the case of Dimock, PA—and in Pennsylvania at large—in recognition of Pennsylvania’s abdication of its regulatory duties and its failure to protect the rights of its citizens.


– This is a exactly the type of State collusion, corruption and mismanagement that calls for you to stand behind your statement to Congress in May 2011, that “EPA will step in to protect local residents if a driller jeopardizes clean water and the state government does not act.”  In late November, Dimock resident Craig Sautner sought assistance from the DEP and was threatened with arrest, simply for calling to ask for help. The need for EPA intervention is indisputable and urgent. 

– Local government officials in Dimock have acted in collusion with industry to deprive citizens of their rights, in clear violation of ethics laws. On Thursday December 2nd, Binghamton, NY Mayor Matt Ryan offered to deliver water to aide Dimock residents in need.  But Dimock township supervisors denied assistance for the impacted residents, following a secret meeting between the supervisors, Cabot representatives, and members of a gas industry advocacy group. The meeting was an apparent violation of the Penn Sunshine Act.

DEP and Cabot have tested the water and say it’s safe, but those assurances ignore several important facts:

  • ●       There are exceedances of federal and/or state safe drinking water standards for a number of contaminants in data from both Cabot’s and DEP’s tests, with heavy metals, methane gas, and radioactive material present, including: aluminum, iron, lead, manganese, toluene, barium, and beryllium.
  • ●       There are also high levels of other contaminants for which safe levels have not yet been established by EPA or DEP, but which are known to present possible health risks, including: naphthalene, phenanthrene, butyl benzyl phthalate, 1-methylnaphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, 2-methoxyethanol, Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) adipate, Bis (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate, methylene blue active substances, gas range organics, acetone and ammonia. Although not presently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and thus no MCLs exists, these chemicals are not safe for ingestion, in either the short or long term.
  • ●       Recently Cabot improperly directed its testing lab to filter water samples before testing, even though there are no filters in the families’ homes of the sort used in the lab, and such filters probably could not be installed without clogging up their water systems.  Unfiltered water samples show high levels of lead, iron and manganese.  And even after filtering, there were exceedances of some contaminants, including manganese.
  • ●       In one home in which Cabot has installed a methane treatment system, ethylene glycol was detected.  Ethylene glycol is commonly used as antifreeze in fracking fluids and is considered toxic.

Also, please speak to this apparent misstatement by EPA Region 3:

-Last week a public outreach staffer from EPA Region 3 emailed the Dimock families stating that water sampling data failed to show contaminant levels that would trigger emergency EPA intervention under the Safe Drinking Water Act. However, the decision by EPA Region 3 not to act was based on a partial review of data with no independent testing by EPA, using the data provided by Cabot and the DEP (flawed for the same reasons listed above).

I will add that Kate Sinding at NRDC has recently affirmed contamination in Dimock residents water according to independent testing, and independent hydrogeologist Paul Rubin, contracted by the families’ attorneys, has recently tested water and has shown siginificant contamination.

I write this letter wishing that this case in Dimock was an aberration, an isolated case that bears no resemblance to others.  However, this is not the case.  There are hundreds if not thousands more Dimocks out there that will need EPAs attention in the future if fracking is not curtailed immediately and if there is no enforcement by the federal government in contamination cases.

We need you to show the strength and resolve that is your hallmark in this extremely important case and we will be happy to work with you to provide more information.

Again, I thank you for your leadership, your compassion and your clear and noble determination to fight for environmental justice.   I hope to hear from you on this matter in the future.

Sincerely, respectfully and in support,

Josh Fox

Director, GASLAND

Milanville, PA


Josh Fox and Debra Winger tonight on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. 11.21.11

Today is November 21st. We Can’t Go Home Again.

Dear Friends-

Today is November 21st.  The day that I was dreading for so many months.  It’s here and I have no fear.

Why?  Because so many of you called, signed up, emailed, and threatened to protest that you averted the coming crisis before it happened.

For nearly four years now I haven’t been able to go home.  For nearly four years now, I have been plagued by nightmares, visions of destruction and the horrible unsettling feeling that the ground that has always been my home might be taken away from me forever.

Of course, we are far from safe from fracking in the Delaware River Basin.  The gas drilling machine will rev its gears up again, most likely even more fiercely than before to try once again to frack the Delaware.  But all of your actions defeated one of the most powerful and destructive industries on the planet for the time being and you should all be proud of that.  As Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper has said to me so many times, “every day without gas drilling in the river basin is a victory.”



Do I feel settled?  Do I feel like I can finally feel safe and secure at home again?  Honestly, I have to say no.  For two reasons.  1) This fight is not yet over in the Delaware River Basin.  We have bought ourselves some time but we’re not out of the woods (or back into them, as it were) yet.  And 2) the past three years of campaigning in 200 cities all over the country and on five continents against fracking has taught me that I can’t go home until everyone can.  That this nightmare is being wrought on so many in their waking lives all over the world and that it must be stopped.  Today we will rally in Trenton to reinforce our victory, yes, and it is victory that we have fought for and needed with such energy and passion that it almost seems unreal.  But more importantly today we will rally for the rest of the country that is currently being fracked to hell.

I think we are all just trying to become human again.  We are in a system that has gone out of control.

At today’s non-violence training in New York city, we were listing the costs and benefits of direct action.   The responses from the audience were stirring.  Among the costs people listed risk of physical injury, risk of arrest, risk of humiliation in the media, and financial and institutional costs of direct action.  But these seemed to pale in comparison to the benefits of direct action– the ability to stand with history, the satisfaction of acting on one’s beliefs, the power to change something wrong, and something rather surprising.  Someone said that doing direct action was a feeling of oneness with the universe and with community.  That self sacrifice was in fact, a benefit.

The person went on to say that the ability to act meaningfully is a necessity to humanity.

Is our very humanness on the line?  Is it affirmed by what we are doing when we decide to engage in peaceful protest against an obvious wrong?

My good friend Mark Ruffalo once said “thank god for gas drilling” because it brought him closer to so many people in his community.  I understand why he said that, and although I have to say that I’m not quite there yet, I do believe that tomorrow and all the rest of the days ahead, it would perhaps be beneficial and meaningful to always think of ourselves as campaigning for another person’s home. That we are campaigning for a larger community that we strive to be good enough to live in.  And that there is a fundamental kind of generosity at work here.  We are enriched far more by giving our voices to help others survive or defeat this nightmare than we ever would be by destroying our beautiful country so that we could get some cheap gas to market.

So tomorrow I think we have to look forward.  And realize that we can’t go home again until we have built the community that we would like to live in for all of us across the globe fighting extreme energy.  That if the folks in Dimock, PA or in Ft. Worth or in Wyoming or Queensland, Australia are getting fracked. Then we are all getting fracked.  And that we can’t go home until they can too.

And this is true in more than just metaphor.

Matt Sanchez and I interviewed Dr. James Hansen last week.  It was a life changing experience.  Dr. Hansen discovered climate change while working for NASA in the 1970s.  He was examining the surface temperature of Venus and looking at the atmosphere there and he discovered that the atmosphere of Venus had so much methane and CO2 in it that it trapped an enormous amount of heat, bringing the surface temperature to 700 degrees, hot enough to melt lead.  He noticed that we on Earth were adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere and he saw that if we weren’t careful, we would end up like Venus.  The present day climate justice movement stems from those discoveries.

He told us that scientists are no good at defending themsevles, nor do they have the means.  They are not good at sound bites, they don’t have the funds for PR firms the way oil and gas companies do and even though they are scientifically right, their voices are often less powerful in the media than those with the money to shout them down.  That we have to defend the truth, that our voices have to fight for the real science.

But the most important thing he said was that our global move to extreme energy and to unconventional fossil fuels such as fracked gas, spells big big trouble for the planet.  He told us that if we burned all of the conventional oil and gas and coal on the planet, the easily obtainable stuff, we would be in trouble as far as the climate goes but that if we worked really hard we could probably find a way to stabilize the planet with slowly decreasing use of those conventional fossil fuel reserves.  But he warned, over and over during the interview, that if we develop and burn all of the unconventional oil, gas and coal–those obtained by fracking, Mountaintop Removal, Tar Sands development and Deepwater Drilling, that there is really no way out for us.  The development of unconventional fossil fuels is a highway straight to runaway climate change.

We may win in the Delaware River basin, we may avoid fracking there.  But we may lose the entire eco-system of the river in a short time thereafter due to destruction from climate change.  If fracking reigns supreme from PA to the UK, our goose is cooked.  Which is why, beyond all metaphor, we can’t go home again.  Even if we were to unequivocally ban fracking in the river basin or in New York state or in one or another region.   It has to be stopped all over the planet.

So what do we have to do?  We have to stop fracking the Delaware River basin AND in New York AND in Texas AND in the UK and everywhere else.  We have to reach out, as a global movement to make bold partnerships across the world and as we rack up wins, we have to redouble our efforts to spread those victories around.

When we win, we can fight with a lighter sense of being and purpose.  We when win we can keep fighting with just a fraction less tension.  When we win, we can ride a wave forward.

So I hope tomorrow we are just a bit lighter, but we fight with the same enthusiasm and passion, because we are truly fighting for us all.

I hope to see you there.



Update on Trenton Rally Nov 21. Yes this is a big win, but it is still a drop in the bucket.


In case you haven’t heard, incredibly, amazingly, and due to all of your steadfast efforts, we won this round.

See my post below for details.

You stopped fracking in the Delaware River Basin for now.  You won this round.  It is not a complete victory but it is a huge victory.  You brought us back from the brink of total devastation.


Buses have been chartered, Amtrak tickets have been bought, hotels have been booked.  Great speakers will be there and we have a hugely important moment on our hands to push the momentum forward.

We have just had a major victory, that is true. But there is immense suffering happening and irreparable damage being done across Pennsylvania, across the US and across the world from fracking. New York state is in the process of holding crucial hearings on it’s drilling regulations and we must weigh in. We are not stopping now, we must redouble our efforts, encouraged by this significant and symbolic but momentary win. Stopping fracking in the Delaware River Basin, even just for this moment is huge but it is also a drop in the bucket. We must push ahead.

We must take this momentary victory at the Delaware River and press on.  Let’s not lose our incredible momentum We have to keep up our level of action and perseverance not back down.

We will still have our 1st Amendment Non-Violence trainings on Sunday November 20th in Trenton and in New York City and you can still sign up for them HERE.

We are planning the details for Monday now, so please check back to get the full plan.  But we are going to rally and march to the steps of the Capitol in Trenton and be joined by NJ lawmakers who passed the ban on fracking in the legislature and there will be several great guest speakers.

We have also been gathering stories and testimonials at for over a year and we have had 1100 submissions.  There is an terrible crisis going on due to fracking all over the country and internationally and we will share some of these important stories as we prepare to submit them to Congress.

Check back soon for more details.

I want to take one more moment to thank the incredible coalition that made so much noise these past few months and all of you, from the local organizations Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper, United for Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NYH2O, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Protecting our Waters and others to the Big Greens, EWG, Earth Justice, NRDC, Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, to the brilliant and passionate groups working for Climate Justice, Peaceful Uprising and of course, Tar Sands Action.  You folks are amazing.

So, if you were preparing to come to Trenton, please join us as we build this movement stronger and stronger.  We’ll be there to push the fight forward, mark our accomplishment with a roar and show them we will not back down.

More details soon.


and the GASLAND team




All of your calls.  All of your emails.  Your pledges to swarm the DRBC in Trenton on November 21st.

All of your pressure and all of your strength.

You stopped fracking in the Delaware River Basin for now.  You won this round.  It is not a complete victory but it is a huge victory.  You brought us back from the brink of total devastation.

What cancellation means: The DRBC doesn’t hold a meeting to vote down their regulations.  I’ve only ever seen them vote to approve things. Which means they cancel the meeting if they no longer have 3 out of 5 commissioners voting in favor of fracking.  Which is exactly what they have done.  They don’t cancel meetings often, let alone votes.  Your voice made a tremendous difference.  I am humbled, proud and beyond thankful.

Of course, in my wildest dreams, I would have hoped that the DRBC would outlaw fracking in the River Basin permanently and forever and we could all have an icy Thanksgiving canoeing party down the Delaware next week.  This is not a complete victory by any means.  We still do not know when the DRBC will reschedule their meeting.  Could be ten days, could be a month, could be a year.  So stay tuned and stay ready.  We will let you know. We will have many more battles before we stop fracking completely in the Delaware River Basin and throughout the nation and the world.

But this will still be the best thanksgiving I’ve had in my house for years, and I am incredibly thankful for all of you. You did this.  It was you and the threat of you showing up in massive numbers that did this.

You saved the Delaware, for now.

The Governor of Delaware has said he will vote no on fracking the Delaware.  Read the story here.  But that couldn’t have done it all.  Something MUST have happened in New Jersey or with the Obama Administration.  It could have been all of your calls and emails to Joe Biden.  We’ll find out more in the coming days.

This was a concerted effort by so many groups, in so many places.  From the local organizations Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Delaware Riverkeeper, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NYH2O, United for Action, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Protecting our Waters and others to the Big Greens, EWG, Earth Justice, NRDC, FOod and Water Watch, Sierra Club, to the brilliant and passionate groups working for Climate Justice, Peaceful Uprising and of course, Tar Sands Action.

We will continue to fight for the Delaware River.  We will continue to make our voices heard to the Governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and to President Obama and Vice President Biden.

We will have another email in a few hours or tomorrow morning with details and next steps.  We will still hold trainings Nov 20th.  We may refocus the rally on the 21st to keep up the momentum of our campaign.

We must turn our attention now to the rest of Pennsylvania, and the rest of the nation where fracking is still running rampant and we must make sure we keep up our vigilance and focus.

Please pledge along with me that you will continue to fight, that you will continue to show up to events and that you will continue to follow the next steps of this amazing coalition that has assembled to fight fracking.

We will still be holding our 1st Amendment peaceful action trainings on November 20th.  I am encouraging you to attend.  I will be attending the New York training myself.  We need this training and we will re-focus on a new place, perhaps even on November 21.  Please stay tuned.

But for now, enjoy this.  And this Thanksgiving, be just a bit more thankful for yourself and all the others who have worked so hard in this phase of our campaign to save the Delaware.

All my love and respect.

Josh Fox

and the whole GASLAND team

CONTACT JOE BIDEN. SAY IT AIN’T SO JOE! This post contains new info on how to contact the VP. PLEASE WATCH OUR NEW VIDEO!

We are getting many responses from folks writing to the VP that their emails are coming back.  You can try this shorter version of the letter and paste it into the VP contact form at the VP’s website here:

Short Version of the letter:

Dear Vice President Biden-


We respect your integrity, your strength, your leadership and most of all your environmental record.

I am writing to urge you to unequivocally reject the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) proposal to allow gas drilling within the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC received 69,800 public comments on their proposed draft regulations which were overwhelmingly against fracking. They have ignored them and in the process ignored the democratic process. Commissioners who vote to allow fracking are on the wrong side of history and will be held accountable.

Hydraulic Fracturing – or Fracking – is a highly dangerous method of drilling for natural gas that risks the safety of our air, water, and food, and threatens the health of our families, communities, and environment.

The charter of the DRBC calls for it to protect water quality in the basin, and clearly calls for nothing else to be considered above this mandate. If the regulations pass and the river basin is industrialized beyond recognition and contaminated, it will be forever the legacy of those who voted yes.

This watershed provides drinking water for 15.6 million people. That’s about 5% of the nation’s population – including New York City and Philadelphia – who are depending on this relatively small watershed for safe drinking water every day.

Just as New York has urged no drilling in its watersheds, the Obama Administration and the State of Delaware can vote to disallow fracking in the Delaware river basin.

Please stand with this National Wild and Scenic River, its communities and habitats, and the more than 15 million people who rely on the Delaware for their water. To do otherwise could be catastrophic. We voted you into office to serve and protect all of the people, not just the few who wish to profit at all costs.

Currently New York Attorney General has filed suit against the commission for failing in its obligation to complete a cumulative impact study of hydrofracking on the river basin, which is required of the commission by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This means that the DRBC would be violating the law in allowing gas drilling regulations. We urge you to reject all drilling in the river basin flat out, but, at very least, the DRBC is required to do a multi-year cumulative impact study, which would truly assess the impact on the river basin, by federal law.

Thank you.

You may also want to copy your letter to these addresses as well:

TO: Vice President Joe Biden


President Barack Obama (

Jo Ellen Darcy, Army Corps of Engineers for President Obama (

Governor Jack Markell (

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (

Nancy Sutlley, Council on Environmental Quality (


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