Public Herald Calls For Criminal Investigation Over Water

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Above photo: 2013 protest at DEP, by Public Herald.

Pittsburgh, PA – Investigative news nonprofit Public Herald and more than 50 organizations and individuals (including Green Party Candidate for President, Jill Stein) are calling for a federal criminal investigation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) “for failing to act on drinking water contamination related to shale hydrocarbon development, a.k.a. fracking, and placing public health at risk.”

An open letter and petition calling for the federal investigation has been published at Change.org and is currently receiving signatures. The request cites evidence from a 30-month investigation by Public Herald which found “nine ways DEP systematically keeps water contamination cases ‘off the books.’” It’s slated to be sent to the United States House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, Special Agent Clay M. Brown of the US EPA Office of Investigations, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, and 12 additional federal and state offices.

Public Herald’s investigation defines and corroborates other findings by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale,Harvard School of Law, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity.

A federal investigation should include a hearing before the United States Congressional House Oversight and Government Reform Committee comparable to that held for lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water system. In Flint, residents’ complaints about drinking water problems in 2015 were grossly mishandled by state and federal officials. This failure to act in the public interest by state and federal agencies spurred hearings that led to criminal charges filed against members of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

As Bloomberg reported, investigative journalists Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic originally called for the federal intervention during testimony to the EPA Science Advisory Board panel on June 14th, in Washington D.C.

Groups who’ve signed onto Public Herald’s call for the investigation include Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Mountain Watershed Association, Thomas Merton Center, and The Green Party of Pennsylvania, including a number of physicians and impacted residents.

LETTER

On June 14th, 2016, the investigative news nonprofit Public Herald called for a federal criminal investigation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) during testimony before the US EPA Science Advisory Board regarding water contamination related to Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas, commonly called “fracking.”

We, the undersigned, echo Public Herald’s call for a federal investigation of US EPA and PA DEP for failing to act on drinking water contamination related to shale hydrocarbon development, a.k.a. fracking, and thereby placing public health at risk to exposure to toxins. (Add your name to the online petition.)

Due to the government’s failure to perform its duties under current laws and the industry-led weakening of public safety regulations, Americans have been and are still being exposed to toxins in their groundwater. The PA DEP and US EPA have failed to adequately or properly assess residential complaints, or ensure the full restoration of water supplies as required by Title 58, § 3218 of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act.

A federal investigation should include a hearing before the United States Congressional House Oversight and Government Reform Committee comparable to that held for lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water system. In Flint, residents’ complaints about drinking water problems in 2015 were grossly mishandled by state and federal officials. This failure to act in the public interest by state and federal agencies spurred hearings that led to criminal charges filed against members of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

A federal investigation of PA DEP and EPA should encompass all citizen complaints of water contamination and acknowledge the evidence released in a report by Public Herald in September 2015 that revealed nine ways DEP systematically keeps water contamination cases “off the books.” Public Herald’s investigation defines and corroborates other findings by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Harvard School of Law, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity.

These reports clearly show that after a decade of shale hydrocarbon development across Pennsylvania, DEP has allowed the full extent of water contamination related to fracking to remain dangerously obscure. As reported by Public Herald, in the Pennsylvania counties of Butler, Bradford, Susquehanna, Potter, Tioga, Washington, Beaver, Greene, Westmoreland, Fayette, Lycoming, McKean, and Warren, among others, government officials have tacitly and actively permitted a rapid expansion of drilling and fracking in affected areas while allowing disenfranchised Americans to live on donated bottled water for months or years.

EPA nationwide and PA DEP have left thousands of families across shale plays to deal with water contamination on their own, some forced to abandon their homes as “shale gas refugees.”

It is for these reasons that we, the undersigned, call for a federal criminal investigation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) for their mishandling of drinking water contamination complaints related to fracking development in a widespread and systemic cover up and conspiracy against the public.

Sincerely,

Melissa Troutman, Executive Director, Public Herald

Joshua Pribanic, Editor-in-chief, Public Herald

Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party Candidate for President

Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Jenny Lisak, Co-director, Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air

Beverly Braverman, Executive Director of Mountain Watershed Association, home of the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper

B. Arrindell, Director, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

Frank Potter, President, People for a Healthy Environment, Inc.

John A. Trallo, Executive Vice Chair, Shale Justice Coalition/OUE

Michael Bagdes-Canning, Vice President, Cherry Valley Borough

EcoJustice Working Group, Thomas Merton Center

LAWPA – Local Authority Western PA

Communities for Rights and Environment, 31st Ward Pittsburgh, PA

Fracking Truth Alliance of Lawrence and Mercer Counties

Beyond Extreme Energy

Philly EDGE (Encouraging the Development of a Green Economy)

Upper Burrell CAMP (Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution)

Susan Van Dolsen, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion

Mike Stout, Izaak Walton League, Harry Enstrom Chapter

Craig Stevens, Patriots From The Oil & Gas Shales, 6th Generation Landowner, Susquehanna County, Silver Lake Township, Pa.

The Green Party of Pennsylvania, Chair Kristin Combs

Marcellus Protest

Robert Brown, M.D., Murrysville, PA

Ron J. Gulla, Frack Action

Andrew Geller, Editor-in-Chief, Woodshop Films

Maura Stephens, Coalition to Protect New York, Frackbusters (NY)

Stephanie Ulmer, Protect Our Parks

Mike Pastorkovich, Vice Chair & Gwen Chute, Exec. Committee, Allegheny Group Sierra Club

Gerri Wiley, Facilitator, RAFT (Residents Allied for the Future of Tioga)

Trellan Smith, Concerned Residents of Oxford

Ellen Gerhart, Juniata Watershed People Before Pipelines

Rebecca Roter, PA Shale Gas Refugee (Impacted Pennsylvania Resident)

Randolph Hurst, Protect Orange County., Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter

Nancy Vann, Safe Energy Rights Group

Laurie Barr, Save Our Streams PA, Potter County, PA

Steve Runfola, West Virginia

Marcellus Outreach Butler (MOB)

NC PowerForward

Nancy B. Downes, Allegheny County, PA

Karl Zimmerman, Columbia County, PA

Karen Bernard, Allegheny County, PA

Kevin Zeese, J.D.

Margaret Flowers, M.D.

Ann Finneran, NY Water Action Group

William & Angela Smith, Clearville, PA

Leslie Rolfe, Potter County, PA

Mary Anne Heston, Potter County, PA

Dan Taylor, Chenango CDOGG (Chenango, Delaware, Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition Group)

Irene Weiser, Coordinator, Fossil Free Tompkins

Suzy WInkler, Cofounder, Concerned Burlington Neighbors

Rachel Soper, Concerned Citizens of Oneonta

Michael Bucci, Deep Green Resistance New York

Colleen McKinney, Co-founder, People Not Pipelines

Kelly Finan, Susquehanna County, PA

Dwain Wilder, Librarian, Frack Free Genesee

Judy Wanchisn, Founder of East Run Hellbenders Society, Indiana County, PA

Stacy W. Long, President of East Run Hellbenders Society, Indiana County, PA

Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth

Briget & Doug Shields, Pittsburgh, PA

Tara Sumner, Vice President, Advocates for Springfield

Joseph & Arlene Mercurio, New Kensington, PA

Stuart Besnoff, Windsor, Massachusetts

Holly Higinbotham, CaPOW – Compressor and Pipeline Opposition in Windsor, MA

Christine Macpherson, Founder, Complete It Cuomo, Albany, NY

Joan Tubridy, Delaware County, NY

Pennsylvanians Against Fracking

Mary Finneran, Cairo, NY Frackbustersny, Coalition to protect NY, United Against Fossil Fuels

Dennis Higgins, Otego, NY

Mickey Gniadek, Washington County, PA

Robert Buncher, Allegheny County, PA

Sam Bernhardt, Senior Pennsylvania Organizer, Food & Water Watch

Howard County (MD) Climate Change