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"Corporations in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and upstate New York have launched a massive program to extract natural gas through a
process that could, if it goes wrong, degrade the Delaware River watershed and the fresh water supplies that feed upstate communities, the
metropolitan cities of New York, Philadelphia, Camden and Trenton, and many others on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.
“The potential environmental consequences are extreme,” says Fritz Mayer, editor of The River Reporter in Narrowsburg, N.Y. His paper has been
following the drilling in the Upper Delaware River Valley and he told me, “It could ruin the drinking supply for 8 million people in New York
Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are locked under the Marcellus Shale that runs from West Virginia, through Ohio, across most of Pennsylvania
and into the Southern Tier of New York state. There are other, small plates of shale, in the south and west of the United States. It takes an
estimated 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per well to drill down to the natural gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The
water is mixed with resin-coated sand and a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrogen, biocides, surfactants, friction
reducers and benzene to facilitate the fracturing of the shale to extract the gas.
Corporations like Bechtel have been buying up water reservoirs around the globe in anticipation of future water shortages. And what they will do when
they control our water was illustrated in Bolivia a decade ago. The World Bank forced Bolivia to privatize the public water system of its
third-largest city, Cochabamba. It threatened to withhold debt relief and other development assistance if the city did not comply. Bechtel, which was
the only bidder, was granted a 40-year lease to take over Cochabamba’s water through a subsidiary called Aguas del Tunari.
“Urinetown” was visited on Cochabamba in 2000 within weeks of the privatization. Aguas del Tunari imposed massive rate hikes on local water users
of more than 50 percent, according to the Cochabamba-based Democracy Center. Families living on the local minimum wage of $60 per month were billed up
to 25 percent of their income for water. The rate hikes sparked citywide protests. The Bolivian government declared martial law in Cochabamba and
deployed thousands of soldiers and police to restore order. More than 100 people were injured in the rioting and a 17-year-old boy was killed. The
Cochabamba project was abandoned, but Bechtel and other corporations are not done. Bechtel’s control of the water supply in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a
few years later resulted in water shutoffs, contamination, and a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. Water in a world of scarcity will be very profitable.
And Bechtel is preparing for the bonanza at home and abroad. "