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March 16th, 2015

Hundreds of National, State and Local Groups Urge Govs. Christie and Cuomo to Veto Port Ambrose LNG Plan

Letter Initiated by Food & Water Watch Highlights Grave Environmental and Safety Risks of Proposed Offshore Gas Port

New York, NY – A letter sent today by advocacy group Food & Water Watch to Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, signed by 217 national, state and local organizations, called on the governors to veto an offshore liquid natural gas (LNG) port being proposed for construction in the waters just off New York and New Jersey. As the letter states, the proposed Port Ambrose LNG facility would pose a significant explosion and pollution threat to nearby costal communities, would increase dependence on fossil fuels and fracking throughout the region, and would impede the prospect of offshore wind energy development in the same location. Both Christie and Cuomo have the ability to veto the proposal outright.

Additionally, as the public comment period on Port Ambrose came to a close today, Food & Water Watch submitted more than 27,000 comments to the U.S. Coast Guard and the federal Maritime Administration opposing the plan. The letter opposing Port Ambrose was signed by organizations from 24 different states, including prominent national organizations such as Sierra Club and 350.org.

“Governor Christie vetoed a similar offshore LNG proposal in 2011 and we hope he’ll once again do the smart thing for the safety and prosperity of the Jersey Shore,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Governor Cuomo recently became a national leader on the environment and public safety when he banned fracking in New York. For him to allow Port Ambrose now would be a real contradiction, and an about-face on fracking and fossil fuels. We urge both governors to reject this unneeded, unwanted offshore hazard.”

Notably, the letter highlights the connection Port Ambrose would likely have to the harmful, polluting practice of fracking in the United States. The letter states in part:

There is no convincing demonstration for the need of this project for [natural gas] imports… Although the Port Ambrose project is being proposed as in import facility, market forces dictate that it could be used to export LNG to foreign markets where has fetches a much higher price than in the United States… If converted to an export facility, the project’s threats would be compounded by the extent it would drive demand for drilling and fracking for natural gas. Fracking is a dangerous method of extracting oil and gas that threatens drinking water supplies, as well as the stability of our climate…

Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 718.943.8063

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March 11th, 2015

Western Maryland Business Owners Join Growing Call for Statewide Fracking Moratorium

More than 100 Businesses from Region Sign Letter to Legislators

Annapolis, Md. – Dozens of business owners and concerned residents of Western Maryland descended on the capital today to highlight strong and growing demand in their region for a statewide fracking moratorium. They presented a letter to legislative leaders signed by more than 100 Western Maryland business owners calling for the moratorium. The letter cites deep concern over the grave effects the highly industrial, polluting process of fracking could have on regional businesses, particularly those related to the booming tourism and leisure industries. Western Maryland residents also delivered to the legislature today some of the 20,000 petitions from state residents calling for the moratorium that were recently collected by advocacy groups.

Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo and Senator Karen Montgomery are the two lead sponsors on the Protect Our Health and Communities Act (HB 449/SB 409), introduced in February, to enact a long-term moratorium on fracking in the state.

“I believe the impacts from fracking will take our Golden Goose and send it flying. Having seen the equipment intensive widespread heavy industry that fracking is I cannot see how it is compatible with vacationing in Deep Creek Lake or Garrett County. Tourism pays a lot of bills in Garrett County,” said Steven Green, co-owner of High Mountain Sports and former president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

“We are excited for the chance to respectfully explain that our own elected representatives do not reflect the sentiments of what we believe are most business owners’ viewpoints in Mountain Maryland. We say no to water contamination, no to urban-style air pollution in our valleys, no to the perpetual truck traffic that will spell the end of our tourism industry and yes — resoundingly yes — to fracking moratorium legislation,” said Paul Roberts, co-proprietor of Deep Creek Cellars.

“My business has introduced the beauty of rural, western Maryland to many thousands of outdoor recreation tourists and cyclists each year, visitors who are typically affluent and have a high likelihood of returning often.  Outdoor recreation tourism in general, and cycling in particular, is not compatible with destroyed roads, heavy truck traffic, polluted air, and the eyesore that is inherent with fracking. Western Maryland should be encouraging rather than discouraging the outdoor recreation industry,” said Kyle Yost, owner of Garrett Events.

“According to a Washington Post poll, more than 50 percent of Marylanders oppose fracking. Because of all the research that is coming out on the potential health, environmental and safety risks of the fracking industry, we need to take a step back and let the science play out on these issues,” said Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo.

The advocacy groups that collected more than 20,000 petitions in support of the fracking moratorium are: Chesapeake Climate Action Network; CREDO Action; Environmental Action; Food & Water Watch; Friends of the Earth; League of Conservation Voters; Sierra Club; and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

Background: Fracking is a controversial natural gas drilling method that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at extreme pressure to break up rock and release the gas. Maryland’s new governor, Larry Hogan, has said he wants to move forward with drilling — despite the growing evidence of its harm and the most recent polling, which shows a clear majority are concerned about those risks.

More than 425 peer-reviewed scientific studies on the effects of shale gas development now exist, and 75 percent of those have been published since January 2013. Of the 49 studies that investigated the health effects of fracking, 47 – over 96 percent – found risks or adverse health outcomes. Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) also concluded that the likelihood of negative public health impacts was “high” or “moderately high” in 7 of 8 areas studied. The latest poll in Maryland found 58 percent of Marylanders who know of fracking thought it would harm the state’s environment. For more information visit www.DontFrackMD.org

Contact: Ryanne Waters – rwaters[at]fwwatch.org, 818.371.0912

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March 3rd, 2015

Maryland Legislators, Businesses and Health Professionals Call for Fracking Moratorium

Rally Highlights Scientific Evidence of Fracking’s Harms; Polls Show Majority of Marylanders Opposed to Drilling

Annapolis, Md. – The Protect Our Health And Communities Act (HB 449/SB 409), a fracking moratorium bill introduced by Maryland Senator Karen Montgomery, Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, and 51 other General Assembly members, will be heard before the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs today. The Don’t Frack Maryland campaign held a rally in support of the bill, citing concerns over fracking’s effects on public health, tourism, real estate, agriculture, organic farming, and recreation industries, and Maryland’s long-term economic outlook. On Monday a letter was sent to the Maryland General Assembly from over 85 Western Maryland businesses calling for a fracking moratorium.

Meanwhile, a recent Goucher poll found that 59 percent agree natural gas drilling in Maryland poses a major risk to the state’s water resources, and a poll released yesterday by Chesapeake Climate Action Network found that 68 percent of Marylanders are opposed to fracking in the state right now.

“This bill will keep our pristine environment,” said Senator Karen Montgomery, the bill’s Senate Sponsor. “A long-term moratorium on fracking is the responsible choice to determine the effects it will have, not only on public health, but also on Maryland’s tourism, real estate, agriculture and small businesses.”

“We are seeing more and more, that the detrimental effects of fracking are not isolated within the energy industry. Fracking not only impacts our personal health but also the health of our state’s economy,” said Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, the bill’s House sponsor. “I don’t want to see fracking come to Maryland before first understanding the long-term health, environmental and economic impacts.”

Advocates for the bill argue that fracking should only be allowed in Maryland if the technology is shown to be safe, but there is increasing evidence that this practice is simply too dangerous. Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies have identified numerous human health risks, air and water pollution, increased earthquake activity, and social problems linked to drilling and fracking in states where it already occurs.

“Anyone who thinks that fracking can be done without harming the environment or affecting resident’s health should talk to people in Pennsylvania who are living through a nightmare,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Families living in fracking zones around the country are struggling with poisoned drinking water, air pollution, fires, explosions, and even earthquakes. In the meantime, the boom-and-bust cycle that marks the fossil fuel industry leaves communities to clean up the mess left behind when the price of fuel is low.”

Signers of the businesses letter claim that Maryland’s tourism-based economy is not compatible with fracking’s negative effects on health, water, air and land. According to the letter, more than half of Garret County’s jobs and two-thirds of the tax base are derived from tourism-related real estate and business development.

“Fracking will decimate industries like tourism, real estate, and agriculture by industrializing farmland and contaminating land and water,” said Nadine Grabania, Owner of Deep Creek Cellars in Garrett County. “Who wants to go on vacation and see a fracking rig? No one. And when the industry leaves, Marylanders will be stuck with their mess. How are we supposed to develop after that?”

“As a resident of Garrett County, I want everyone to understand that many in our communities are outraged at the thought of fracking,” said Ann Bristow, Safe Drilling Initiative Commissioner. “We depend on tourism, outdoor recreation, and the vacation home tax base. If fracking moves in, our businesses will leave the area, our property values will plummet, our air, water, and soil will be threatened, and our health will be endangered.”

The future of Marylanders’ public health and environment rests on the passage of this bill,” said Maya Spaur, Director of Governmental Affairs, Student Sustainability Committee for UMD Student Government Association. “This session our legislators face a critical choice, a choice that should be easy.  The hydraulic fracturing process has been shown to leak toxic chemicals into our air and water sources, devastating local environments and causing adverse health effects—rendering our children, pregnant women, and the elderly most vulnerable.”

In addition to the economic shortfalls from fracking, its health effects cannot be ignored. Recent studies suggest there are significant adverse health risks from exposures related to fracking. Health professionals warn that it would be irresponsible to move forward with fracking at this time given the trends emerging in the science.

“As a health professional, I have a duty to prevent harm,” said Gina Angiola, M.D., Board Member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility and cofounder of CHP-Md. “There is no price tag that can be put on a family’s health or on permanent environmental degradation. The only way to truly protect Maryland communities is to prevent fracking from coming to Maryland at this time.”

For more information on the statewide campaign for a moratorium on fracking in Maryland:www.dontfrackmd.org.

Contact: Ryanne Waters – rwaters[at]fwwatch[dot]org

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February 25th, 2015

Governor Christie Sells Off New Jersey to the Highest Bidder

By Jim Walsh

It was Hurricane Sandy, the disastrous “super storm,” that thrust Governor Christie on to the national stage as a supposedly straight-talking hero of the common man. But the truth can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, Americans will come to realize what many of us in New Jersey have known all along: Christie is selling New Jersey off to the highest bidder, at the expense of hardworking families and our environment.

While Christie’s recent gaffs and scandals have been good fodder for late-night television comedians, behind these missteps is a governor tied to corporate interests that he hopes will fund his national political ambitions. It seems he’ll do just about anything to put those corporations ahead of regular people.

Early in his first term, Governor Christie created a privatization task force, creating a virtual road map for transferring billions of dollars in public assets to private profit driven companies. And throughout his tenure as governor, Christie has pushed to privatize public television, parts of the New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway, public parks, inspectors, and now our water.

Governor Christie just signed a bill that will open the floodgates for water system privatization in New Jersey. The bill removes an important requirement that communities have the right to vote on any water privatization plan and the rate details associated with it. The elimination of these important consumer protections are a dream come true to corporate water giants like American Water, which just donated $50,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association when Governor Christie was the chair.

Governor Christie used this his position as Governor’s Association chair to raise money and build his political presence and influence. But far more sinister is Governor Christie’s “gifts from friends” program. The program was enacted when Christie signed an executive order allowing the New Jersey governor (and only the governor) to accept large gifts from personal friends.

One of Christie’s personal friends seems to be Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who gifted Christie a $30,000 trip to a Cowboys playoff game. What folks may not know is that Jerry Jones amassed a fortune as on oil and gas mogul. This is concerning, considering that Christie recently refused to sign two bills that would have banned fracking and fracking waste in the state. At the same time he supported billions of dollars in ratepayer subsidies for the construction of fracked gas power plants in New Jersey, and a massive fracked gas pipeline through the Pinelands, a environmentally-protected area that preserves a 12 trillion-gallon fresh water aquifer in southern New Jersey.

Speaking of southern New Jersey, Christie has recently appointed an emergency fiscal manager for Atlantic City, a community on the brink of financial collapse due to long-term neglect and the downturn in Jersey’s casino industry. Instead of offering support, he appoints Kevyn Orr as the emergency manager. Kevyn Orr is the same person who, while serving as the emergency manager for Detroit, sought to solve Detroit’s financial struggles by recommending a fire sale of public assets, including their public water.

Governor Christie’s “gifts from friends” program has also garnered contributions from the King of Jordan and Sheldon G. Adelson, a wealthy casino owner. One can wonder exactly how much it costs to buy the governor’s friendship, but what is clear is that being “friends” with Christie comes with some fairly lucrative benefits.

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January 30th, 2015

In Pennsylvania, Making Big Moves Against Fracking

Fracking rigBy Sam Bernhardt

Change happens when we make it happen. In the case of fracking, that change currently happens state-by-state.

Last month, our victory in New York changed the dynamics of what is possible for the fracking movement. With Governor Cuomo’s bold decision to ban fracking, we took what had been a campaign slogan and turned it into a reality. Last week, we brought the momentum that started with a victory in Albany and transformed it into one of the issues on the top of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s radar.

Monday, a day before Wolf was inaugurated, we published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling on him to make stopping fracking a priority for his administration. Challenging Wolf to separate himself from former Governor Corbett’s failed policies on fracking, we wrote that Wolf was largely shaping up to be a continuation of the status quo: unchecked pollution and health risks from an unchecked industry.

We knew we would need more than just the facts to be heard by Wolf. So on Inauguration Day, we assembled more than 250 Pennsylvanians from all corners of the state at a church nearby the Capitol. We marched as a group to the Capitol, accompanied by Gasland’s Josh Fox, catching the attention of the legislators and reporters assembling at the inauguration site. Once the inauguration started, we took the demands spelled out in our op-ed the day before and chanted them directly to Wolf and all the attendees at the ceremony.

Attendees chanted “ban fracking now” with such volume it seemed our collective vocal cords would give out after a few minutes. But, as we went on, and reporters Tweeted that they were having trouble making out the content of Wolf’s remarks over our yells, we began to realize just how loud – and powerful – we really were. When all was said and done, we felt more confident than ever that Governor Wolf had truly heard us and internalized our strength.

Later in the week, Food & Water Watch released a report with Berks Gas Truth clarifying exactly why we had had so much trouble being heard by Wolf short of vocally taking over the inauguration: his ears had been clogged with money from the gas industry. Analyzing Wolf’s campaign finance reports, we found individuals, corporations and PACs associated with the gas industry totaled $1.5 million.

We have no illusions regarding how much work it will take to protect Pennsylvanians from fracking by winning a statewide halt. If anything, we now know exactly how much grassroots power we’ll need to show Wolf (roughly the equivalent of $1.5 million in industry payoffs.) But we know that by educating Pennsylvanians and engaging them, one by one, as a part of a statewide movement against fracking, we can win. And I am confident that with our leading partners in Pennsylvanians Against Fracking – Berks Gas Truth, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, and Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Air and Water – we have the commitment and motivation required to build what can be the most powerful –and most successful – coalition in the state.

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January 13th, 2015

Citing Growing Science, a Broad Coalition of 61 Health, Environment, Faith and Advocacy Groups Unite to Call on the State Legislature to Pass a Long-Term Moratorium on Fracking in Maryland

 

Organizations warn that permitting fracking in Maryland poses significant threats to the health and safety of Marylanders, and to the quality of our air, water and soil

Annapolis, MD—Seeking to protect Marylanders from the public health and environmental risks of fracking, 61 organizations are calling for a long-term moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Maryland. In a position statement released today, the groups emphasized that, “there is no evidence that the state can regulate hydraulic fracturing in a way that adequately protects public health, natural resources, or the economy.”

The diverse coalition of local, state and national public health organizations, faith, environmental, and other advocacy groups citing numerous peer-reviewed studies and reports, are calling on the Maryland General Assembly to pass a long-term moratorium to protect citizens from the many recorded dangers associated with fracking. A recent analysis found that 96 percent of all papers published on health impacts indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.

“Recent studies suggest that unconventional natural gas development can cause both short-term and long-term adverse health impacts, some of which may be irreversible,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, a member of the Board of Directors of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. “These types of health impacts carry tremendous emotional and economic costs for families and communities. We urge the Maryland Legislature to adopt a long-term moratorium to allow time for more scientific and medical knowledge to emerge on the impacts of fracking.”

“As a nurse-midwife, I am deeply concerned about the elevated risks of birth defects and low birth weight babies seen in families near fracking sites. We need to protect our future generations and put a hold on fracking in Maryland,” said Katie Huffling, RN, CNM Director of Programs for the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “I urge the Maryland legislature to put the health of all Maryland’s citizens first and support a long-term moratorium on fracking Maryland.”

“Five years ago, as companies leased our lands for gas exploitation, a few people in mountain Maryland joined with others across our state to seek protections,” said Citizen Shale President Paul Roberts. “We believed that scientific discovery and commonsense caution would one day bring us all to this conclusion: fracking is fraught with unacceptable threats to our water, our air, and our economy. Health is wealth, and we believe Americans everywhere share this preference for our nation’s future.”

The coalition’s statement comes shortly after the New York State Health Department recommended that fracking should not be allowed in that state based on the existing science and the lack of studies on the long term effects of fracking on public health. Subsequently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in the state. Read more…

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November 25th, 2014

Governor O’Malley Caves to Oil and Gas Interests, Opens up Maryland to Fracking

Statement by Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Baltimore, MD—“Governor Martin O’Malley’s announcement today that his administration will release regulations on fracking next month ignores the tens of thousands of Marylanders calling on him to keep fracking out of the state.

“The Maryland Governor, who touts himself as a progressive champion of the environment, cowardly announced right before the Thanksgiving holiday that Maryland will move forward with fracking. He leaves control of fracking’s regulation in the hands of pro-fracking Governor-elect Larry Hogan, someone who sees fracking as a “goldmine” for the state’s coffers. The fact that O’Malley is praising Maryland’s fracking rules as the strictest in the country means nothing considering Hogan will likely change the rules or dismantle them completely.”

“O’Malley said that, “Maryland can’t afford to stick its head in the sand here,” but it is the Governor, himself, who is turning a blind eye to the mountain of scientific evidence showing fracking cannot be safely regulated. Given Governor O’Malley’s failure to adequately protect Marylanders from the harms of fracking, it is now incumbent upon the incoming Maryland legislature to keep fracking out of the state.”

Contacts:

Rich Bindell: 202-683-2457, [email protected]

Mitch Jones: 443-418-6454, [email protected]

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November 10th, 2014

Standing by Those Who Stand in the Way of Fracking Infrastructure

By Wenonah HauterBlogThumb_Wenonah1

It all began taking shape back in March of 2013, when Sandra Steingraber — the noted biologist, author, educator and advisor of Americans Against Fracking — and 11 other courageous individuals were arrested for blockading the entrance to a natural gas compressor station on the banks of Seneca Lake, in the environmentally sensitive Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. These so-called “Seneca Lake 12” were simply doing what countless other Americans have done over generations when they knew their health and safety were threatened, when their elected leaders weren’t there to help, and when they had no other choice: they stood up for their neighbors, their families and themselves, and were hauled off to jail. Sandra spent 10 days behind bars after defiantly refusing to pay a fine.

The narrative of the Seneca Lake 12 is becoming all too familiar, as concerned residents across the nation are often finding no legal means of resistance against the incessant development of dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure spurred on by fracking. Thanks to the decimation of campaign finance laws by the U.S. Supreme Court, state and federal politicians have become increasingly bought off by the unlimited wealth of the oil and gas industry. As such, pleas from desperate local officials and community groups to reject hazardous infrastructure projects fall on deaf ears.

As for FERC, the federal commission charged with regulating the construction and operation of our nation’s energy supply, forget about it. The faceless, bureaucratic agency is simply a machine-like rubber stamp for the whims of the fossil fuel industry and a president who usually backs them.

And so, the numerous infrastructure components required to support and enhance the productivity of fracking operations – pipelines, compressor stations, toxic waste facilities, export terminals, etc. – are sprouting up and branching out through our communities at an alarming rate. The compressor stations, in particular, are downright nasty to live near. They’re intolerably loud, and they regularly emit vast plumes of toxic gasses, including benzene, formaldehyde and hydrogen sulfide, into surrounding environs.

Which brings us back to the Seneca Lake 12, arrested last March for an act of civil disobedience that sought to draw attention to the hazards inherent in a new Inergy (subsequently bought by Texas-based Crestwood-Midstream) compressor station on Seneca Lake, in Reading, New York. Were this any typical gas compressor station about to come on line, community resistance to it would be fully understandable. Though this was no ordinary compressor station.

The Crestwood facility is intended to serve a much more audacious industry goal. The intended expansion project aims to compress and pump billions of cubic feet of natural gas, and millions of gallons of liquid petroleum gas, into vast, underground salt caverns that lie along Seneca Lake. These unlined salt caverns have existed for more than a century. The underground caverns abut the pristine lake, one of New York State’s largest drinking water sources. The repurposing of caverns like these are known to leak, collapse and explode. All fracked gas infrastructure is dangerous and polluting. Salt cavern storage is simply absurd.

Flash forward to October 24, 2014: FERC has just approved – rubber-stamped – Crestwood’s plan to ramp up operation at the Seneca Lake compressor station and salt caverns, and construction is authorized to begin. All means of local community appeal, veto or delay of the project, have been exhausted. And Sandra Steingraber and a dedicated, determined band of community members unwilling to be quietly dismissed are again blocking an entrance to the Seneca Lake Crestwood gas storage facility. Sandra wasn’t arrested again on Oct. 24, but she was a week later.

By early November, dozens of community members, organized and supported by the grassroots We Are Seneca Lake campaign, had been arrested for actions of nonviolent civil disobedience at Crestwood Seneca Lake. No doubt these courageous, intelligent demonstrations of community resistance and education will continue and expand at Seneca Lake, and in countless locations nationwide. Until our elected leaders and government institutions stand up for the health and safety of all residents, and against the profiteering interests of the oil and gas industry, arrests will surely mount.

I am proud to stand in solidarity with Sandra Steingraber and all the brave, nonviolent activists in the Finger Lakes region, and all those engaged in similarly righteous acts of resistance and education elsewhere throughout the nation.

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November 5th, 2014

Building on Regional Trend, Reading, Pa. Passes Anti-Privatization Measure

Reading, Pa. — Reading residents voted last night to amend the city charter to guard against future attempts to privatize the city’s municipal utilities and infrastructure, approving a ballot measure that will require a public referendum before any sale or lease of city assets valued at $10 million or more. The vote puts to bed a months-long debate over the future of the Reading water system, providing a firm rebuke of proposals to sell or lease the system to a private entity.

The Reading vote adds to a string of victories in communities throughout Pennsylvania fighting privatization attempts. In September, the Altoona City Council voted unanimously to abandon a water privatization proposal. In October, the Philadelphia City Council killed a proposal to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works, the municipally-owned gas utility. And last year, activists and community members pressured Allentown leaders away from leasing the city water system to a private company.

Reading voters affirmed the proposed charter amendment by a margin of three to one. Our Reading, Our Water, a community-led campaign, collected 1,800 signatures from Reading residents to put the question to the ballot and then made more than 4,000 attempts to contact voters in the weeks before the election to educate them about the need to pass the ballot measure.

“The people of Reading have acted as public leaders and protectors,” said Sam Bernhardt, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group that worked closely with other local community groups to support the measure. “Communities throughout the region looking to safeguard their public assets against the threat of privatization can use this victory as a model. This is a smart, common-sense decision. The people of Reading collectively own their water system, and they should be ensured the right to make these important decisions as a community.”

Contact: Seth Gladstone – sgladstone[at]fwwatch[dot]org, 718.943.8063

October 7th, 2014

Exelon-Pepco Merger Would Increase Energy Giant’s Unchecked Political Buying Power

Consumer Group Asks Public Service Commission to Block Exelon-Pepco Merger

Baltimore, MD – Today, Food & Water Watch sent a letter to the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC), opposing the proposed merger of Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings Inc., and asking the commission to block the merger. The MPSC approval is one of several sought by the companies in the Mid-Atlantic region. Granting approval would have negative consequences for electricity customers throughout the region. Considering the political ramifications of such a merger, it would also be a major blow to democracy.

“Exelon currently enjoys tremendous influence in Congress,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “This merger will only serve to increase the company’s already significant buying power in Congress. Given Exelon’s current reliance on polluting technologies, it is likely to use its considerable influence to continue advocating for the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, rather than moving the nation down the path to a renewable future.

A merger of this magnitude would give Exelon nearly complete control of the energy market from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., giving the energy giant ownership of Atlantic City Electric and Delmarva Power, in addition to Pepco. Exelon already owns BGE and Peco in the Mid-Atlantic, along with ComEd in Illinois. The merger would add 1,845,000 Mid-Atlantic electricity customers to Exelon’s existing 2,800,000 electricity customers in the region.

But the biggest impact Exelon’s purchase would be its increased lobbying power. Exelon is already one of the largest donors to political campaigns in the country with nearly $1.5 million in contributions, putting the company in the top one percent in the nation. Exelon has spent over $8.2 million to lobby the 113th Congress, placing it in the top three percent of companies lobbying Congress.

Exelon’s unchecked political influence puts the company in conflict with the idea of pushing toward a sustainable energy future. The company has been a major opponent renewing the federal wind energy tax credit. In addition, Exelon has shown a desire to rapidly expand its electricity generation from natural gas. An increasing share of the natural gas burned in electricity generation is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is an inherently dangerous process that puts at risk both public and environmental health. Exelon has shown itself to lack a commit to a truly renewable and sustainable energy future.

Contact: Rich Bindell, Food & Water Watch, 202-683-2457, [email protected]

 

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