By Kate Fried
It seems that Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis recently got a head start on Halloween, masquerading as…an oil and gas industry spokesperson. Sure, it’s not the most exciting costume around–all the sexy water baron costumes were apparently sold out. According to publicity materials recently released by the company, DeBenedictis said that he supports regulations that would help pave the proverbial road to fuel more cars and trucks with natural gas. Earlier this year, Aqua America even committed to transition many of its vehicles to burn the oil and gas industry’s current favorite fossil fuel.
From where does this fascination with natural gas arise? Has DeBenedictis been watching too many API ads? Does this have anything to do with what he hopes to find in his metaphorical trick or treat sack? It very well could. The fracking required to extract the gas to fuel these vehicles requires water—lots and lots of water and Aqua America wants to tap that market. Earlier this year, Aqua America was instrumental in evicting residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village from their homes so it could build a water withdrawal facility to supply the industry. We can only assume that Aqua America’s upcoming plans to exploit shale gas development are more trick than treat.
DeBenedictis has said that selling water to shale gas operations could comprise 10 percent of Aqua America’s total income in 2015. That means that he expects those water sales to bring in more than $15 million in profit. This year, the company expects to make about $1.5 to 2 million in profit from selling water to the fracking industry via the same pipeline that caused the eviction of residents in the Riverdale Mobile Home Village.
Private water has faced considerable public resistance in recent years as more people realize that water is best controlled and managed by the public. So what’s a corporation to do when its plans to sustain profits are foiled? In this case, the answer appears simple: join forces with another greedy industry.
While there are many, many reasons to oppose fracking, Aqua America’s apparent attempts to cozy up to the oil and gas industry serve as a reminder of some of the darker, possibly more insidious aspects of the fight—while we try to protect our communities and our collective future from fracking, it seems some CEOs just can’t wait to enjoy all their new loot.