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Farm Supporters Lock Down at Fracking Site: Highlight Risks to Farms and Food

January 28, 2013

Breaking: A blockade on January 27th, 2013 blocked a Shell shale gas well, to protect farms and food from fracking. See more news about the blockaders, who locked down to a giant pig, from the front page of  today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and from the Shadbush Collective website.

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Maggie Henry, whose organic farm is threatened by this Shell fracking operation, stands with Henrietta the pig and activists locked down to Henrietta, at the blockade in Bessemer, PA on January 27th, 2013. Photo: shadbushcollective.org

Bessemer, PA – Yesterday afternoon, residents of Western Pennsylvania and friends of Lawrence County farmer Maggie Henry blocked the entrance to a Shell natural gas well site to protest fracking’s threat to local agriculture and food safety.  Around 1pm, four protesters wearing signs that read “Fracking Threatens Food” and “Protect Farms for Our Future”, locked themselves to the legs of a giant paper-mache pig, obstructing traffic to and from the site. Two dozen others, including Henry herself, joined in support. The newly-constructed gas well, located less than 4,000 feet from Henry’s organic pig farm,  has been flaring for weeks, burning off toxic emissions of excess hydrocarbons.

The farm has been in the Henry family for generations and has been maintained as a small business despite pressure from industry consolidation. The Henrys made a switch from dairy to organic pork and poultry production several years ago as part of their commitment to keeping the operation safe and sustainable for generations to come. “People buy my food because they know that it is literally the purest that you can get. My animals run around out on ground, in pasture. They’re not cooped up in cages.” Henry said. “Agriculture, not fracking, is the number one industry in Pennsylvania. This threatens my air, my water, my farm, my livelihood.”

The Henry farm is especially vulnerable to the risks associated with fracking because it is located in an area riddled with hundreds of abandoned oil wells from the turn of the 20th century. According to hydro-geologist Daniel Fisher who has studied the area, “Each of these abandoned wells is a potentially direct pathway or conduit to the surface should any gas or fluids migrate upward from the wells during or after fracking.” Migrating gas and fluids threaten groundwater supplies, on which Henry and her animals depend for their drinking water.  Many cases of sickness and reproductive problems have been reported in livestock near fracking operations throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Nick Lubecki, one of the protestors locked to the pig, recently started a farm of his own in Allegheny County. He worries about the future of agriculture in Pennsylvania. “It is extremely disturbing as a young farmer to have to worry about the safety of the water supply in a chaotically changing climate while these out of state drillers have the red carpet rolled out for them. In a few years the drillers will all be gone when this boom turns to bust like these things always do. I don’t want to be stuck with their mess to clean up.”

The action comes on the heels of escalating civil disobedience across the continent to stop extreme energy projects, like fracking, strip mining, and tar sands oil mining, which destroy communities and fuel the climate crisis. Last week a coalition of Appalachian and Navajo communities impacted by strip mining, blockaded Peabody Coal’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO. And earlier this month protestors in eastern Texas erected a tree sit blockade to halt construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, slated to transport crude oil from the devastating Tar Sands mining in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas.

The protest disrupted operations at the site for three hours and displayed a different vision for the future of the region than the one oil giant Shell represents: safe food, sustainable economy, and clean air and water. Around 4:30, state police issued a final order to disperse and the blockaders unlocked and joined with supporters gathered nearby.  Henrietta the Pig, however, was taken into Shell’s custody. #Henrietta

See photos, video, and more news at the Shadbush Collective website here.

Press Contacts: Diane Sipe – 724-272-4539 or Ben Fiorello of the Shadbush Collective: bfiorillo@gmail.com

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2 Comments
  1. Bianca permalink
    May 23, 2013 3:34 pm

    This region continues to show the effects of past oil extraction, and with new proposed fracking projects it’s no wonder residents have to resort to ‘civil disobedience’ to protect their agricultural future!

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