John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Environment Category

Newtown Township Supports a Complete & Permanent Ban on Fracking and Related Activities

At a March 28, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors approved Resolution 2018-R-11, which calls upon the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to “enact a complete and permanent ban on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing and all related activities (including drilling, fracking, wastewater processing and discharges from and water withdrawals for drilling and fracking operations) throughout the basin.”

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries. Although the Commission proposes to extend its ban on high volume hydraulic fracturing in hydrocarbon bearing rock formations within the Delaware River Basin, it also proposes rules to address the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater related to hydraulic fracturing; i.e., it would allow such fracking-related activities.

The resolution includes 10 scientific citations as support of the “significant evidence that shale gas development, and its related operations which include all the phases of the fracking process … has adverse effects on public health, property interests, agriculture and on our air, water, and land.”

Board member Kyle Davis opposed the Resolution saying he doesn’t believe the Board “has done enough vetting of these citations to put our signatures on it. If we could take these citations out, I’m a definite ‘yes’ on this resolution,” Davis said.

Sharon Furlong, spokesperson for the Bucks Environmental Action Group and for Bucks County Sierra Club, in comments before the Board, spoke in support of the resolution and urged that it be passed with all the citations remaining. “They are there in order to allow people to go to the source material themselves and make up their own minds,” said Furlong. She also said, however, that “many of them are not readily accessible for people to understand.” She suggested that many have been properly vetted by the Wall Street Journal and other media (see a video clip of her comments below).

In an online survey that I hosted, 67% of respondents favored the resolution, whereas 10% said do nothing. 15% thought that Newtown should pass an ordinance (law) banning fracking. NOTE: A resolution just states a position or policy - it is not a law. See the chart below for a summary of responses.

Survey Results. N=39. This is not a Newtown township approved survey.

“Lawful and properly regulated Fracking has provided a huge boost to Pennsylvania’s economy and US’s energy independence!,” said one anonymous respondent. “Do it right and we all benefit!”

“People are generally against fracking but it's hard to determine what the ramifications of a change would be,” said Jan Filios, a resident of Newtown and a representative of Bucks Environmental Action.

The Newtown anti-fracking resolution will be submitted as a comment posted online at the DRBC website, here. Citizens are also encouraged to submit their comments: simply state your objections to hydraulic fracking and all related activities. The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. March 30.

Posted on 29 Mar 2018, 10:23 - Category: Environment

Newtown Artesian Water Company's Response to Cyanide Dumping Issue

As you may know, it was recently reported in Newtown Patch (February 14, 2018) and other local news outlets that a Merck chemist allegedly stole potassium cyanide – a highly toxic chemical – and dumped it down a public stormwater inlet in the area of County Line and Street roads, between Easton Road and Second Street Pike. Depending on where the chemical was allegedly dumped, it would've been discharged to either Neshaminy Creek or Pennypack Creek, police said. This happened in December, 2017. Read more about it here.

Many people have commented online that authorities should have warned them sooner. "So if this happened on December 15 why are we just now hearing about this?," said one commentator.

I spoke to Daniel Angove, Assistant General Manager at the Newtown Artesian Water Company, who assured me that this was never a threat to Newtown’s water supply because the company purchases water north (upstream) from where the chemical was dumped

“There never was concern about our water,” said Angove, “and if there was, our customers would be the first ones to know.”

He went on to explain that the company has a reverse 911 system for immediate threats. This would place a call to everyone who has their information in the system. If it were a less serious, localized problem, the company would hang information on doors in the affected neighborhoods as well as use news outlets and social media to notify people. “People would know and they wouldn’t have to wait and learn about it in Newtown Patch” weeks afterward, said Mr. Angove.

I'm not sure what "social media" Angove is talking about. There are no social media links on the company's website and very few posts - none recent - on its Facebook page.

Mr. Angrove told me that he was willing to come before the Newtown Board of Supervisors on an annual basis to give a status on the water system. Recall that upon the request of the Newtown Board of Supervisors, Mr. Angove reported on the quality of water and concerns of carcinogens based on a newspaper article published in the August 4, 2017, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times. Mr. Angove discounted an independent study that found 7 carcinogens - including chromium-6 that was featured in the movie "Erin Brockovich" - in Newtown's water. Read more about that here.

Posted on 15 Feb 2018, 15:47 - Category: Environment

Be on Look Out for the Spotted Lanternfly!

As reported in the Q1 2018 issue of Townships Today newsletter:

Here we go again. First, it was the emerald ash borer that marched relentlessly from west to east across the commonwealth, leaving a trail of decimated ash trees in its wake. Now, the spotted lanternfly is threatening to spread from southeastern Pennsylvania and could wreak even more havoc than the ash borer.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, the pest poses a signicant threat to the grape, apple, and stone fruit industries, worth nearly $175 million, as well as the state’s $12 billion hardwood industry.

Consequently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the state nearly $3 million last summer to fund control efforts and public outreach. With 13 southeastern counties under quarantine, state legislators have requested an additional $20 to $40 million in federal funding to combat the insect.

[Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in February, 2018, it is awarding $17.5 million to try and stop the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly in southeast Pennsylvania. See the story here:]

Municipalities in the quarantined counties have been asked to alert residents and post signs and information about how to recognize the spotted lanternfly. The goal is to minimize the risk of the insect leaving the quarantined area.

Given that insects don’t recognize quarantines, it is a good idea to get educated about this invasive species and watch for its arrival in your community.

Note: At the October 16, 2017, Budget Presentation before the BOS, Township Manager Kurt Ferguson, estimated that between 800 and 1,000 ash trees in the Clark Nature Center have been killed by the ash borer. These dead trees are a hazard to hikers and therefore the Township closed the hiking trails in the park.

“Quite honestly,” said Ferguson, “we probably need a million dollars to take the trees down.” Meanwhile, the budget allows for only $15,000 per year. Some trees near activities have been taken down for safety reasons. But in the end the trees have to be removed not just taken down if this is going to be a useable beautiful space. Ferguson promised to come back with a long term strategy to deal with the situation.

Posted on 14 Feb 2018, 16:49 - Category: Environment

Delaware River Basin Commission Proposes to Allow Fracking Wastewater Disposal

As reported in the September 14, 2017, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times, he Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) passed a resolution that would ban fracking but allow fracking wastewater to be stored or discharged in the Delaware River basin, which totally negates the ban according to environmentalists. Former PA Department of Environmental Protection secretary John Quigley said "It would be inconsistent at best to allow a ban and consider wastewater. It just doesn't make sense."

For more details read this 
Bucks County Courier Times article.

Despite the pleas of several residents to hold off, the Newtown Planning Commission approved a recommendation in December, 2016, to advertise a proposed ordinance aimed at limiting the opportunity for fracking in the township if a current moratorium is lifted. See video of a Delaware Riverkeeper Network meeting (January 2017) on the fracking ordinance proposed by the Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield Jointure.

Posted on 14 Sep 2017, 01:47 - Category: Environment

PA Calls for Review of PFOA in Water

According to an article in the August 16, 2017, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times,

a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection board unexpectedly voted Tuesday morning to order a review of PFOA in drinking water, after being petitioned by the Bristol Borough-based environmental nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Read the full article here.

If elected, I will be proactive in ensuring our air is clean & our drinking water is free from harmful chemicals due to fracking & PFOA/S contamination.

For example, I will support more informative and more easily understood reports regarding our town's water quality. For more on my position, see here.

Posted on 16 Aug 2017, 01:15 - Category: Environment

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