Blog posts


Up the Delaware

Basket Creek flows into the Upper Delaware River near Long Eddy, NY. The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, part of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System, stretches 73.4 miles along the New York – Pennsylvania border.
I spent time in northern Pennsylvania this week shooting a magazine story about fracking. (What is fracking?)

The upper Delaware River is a really beautiful place. Amazing how pristine it is considering how close it is to NYC and Philadelphia. I can understand why local residents are worried about plans for 35,000 natural gas wells along the river. (As of 2009 there were already over 77,000 gas wells in Pennsylvania, but none yet in the protected Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River area.)

Researchers have identified volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, methane and xylene found in contaminated drinking water near drilling sites. Other environmental concerns include surface water contamination, air pollution, forest fragmentation, and human health problems. The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act (plus some regulations of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act), and exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during fracking.

On the other hand, gas companies and property owners stand to earn up to one trillion dollars in profits from drilling in the Marcellus Shale. And it's clear that these small towns need income, with nothing else but tourism to hold up the economy.

The article will be out in October and I'll post my full photo essay then.


Can you light your water on fire?

Bill Ely of Dimock, Pennsylvania can.

Bill and Sheila Ely are among 14 families near Carter Road in Dimock, PA, whose drinking water wells became contaminated with methane and other chemicals after gas drilling on their properties. Cabot Oil and Gas, the company held responsible by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has had at least 21 spills in Dimock township in less than two years.
The Elys’ well has so much methane that the water appears carbonated and Bill regularly lights his water on fire to show visitors.

How does he do it? Bill takes a five gallon jug and fills it from his hose via a hole on the side. Extra water pours out overflow holes while the methane bubbles up to the top, up the tube, where he lights it like a giant lantern.

Here, the Elys' neighbor Craig Sautner tries to burn his water.

The Sautners have less methane in their water than the Elys, so Craig feels safe holding a lighter directly to his hose.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is new method of drilling for natural gas: millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are pumped down a well under high pressure. The pressure fractures the shale, opening fissures so that natural gas can flow more freely. In August 2010, fracking is being widely used in the Marcellus Shale formation under Pennsylvania while New York is considering a temporary moratorium on the practice until the environmental effects can be reviewed.


Photos in Arena on Friday

You are all invited to this shindig on Friday. (By the way, this is not a fancy fundraiser, just come and see the show. Though donations to FOCCUS are welcome, they do great work!) Don't worry about RSVPing, just say I sent you.

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