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Hundreds Heat Up the Opposition to Dirty Gas Drilling in Harrisburg

June 8, 2011

Over 400 activists rallied and lobbied for a Pennsylvania moratorium on shale gas drilling in Harrisburg yesterday, in a day of high drama — and quiet advocacy too — that Protecting Our Waters volunteer Kristian Boose found to be “spectacularly empowering.”

The news coverage has also been fairly spectacular; check out the 20 links embedded in this post to get a sense of it!

A packed bus full of 50 Philadelphia folks from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Protecting Our Waters and PennEnvironment left 3oth Street Station at 7:30 AM, joining up with  hundreds more activists at the Rotunda and immediately heading into meetings with legislators.  Over 350 individuals met with their PA state representatives and senators throughout the day, even during the thunderous noon to 1 rally and boisterous sit-in at Governor Corbett’s office.  During these quiet meetings, concerned citizens made it absolutely clear that we  that we want investment in job-creating renewable energy now, not later after Pennsylvania’s environment has been gutted by gas drilling pollution; and that we must not risk public health for the sake of short-term dollars.

That message was underscored by Crystal Stroud’s moving speech during the noon rally at the Rotunda.  The crowd hushed to listen to Crystal’s quiet voice describing her symptoms, her frustration with the gas drilling company, Chief Oil and Gas, and recent bad news about her neighbors and her own child.  Describing herself as a “formerly healthy, 29 year old hair stylist” from Towands, Crystal said, “Every neighbor I’ve talked to has problems with their water,” and disclosed that her son’s blood test just came back showing a dangerously high level of barium (110 mcg/l).

Neighbors are calling Crystal to express concern about disturbing health impacts apparently related to water contamination, including a mother “whose child had blisters all over his face after his mother bathed him” in tap water.  Upsetting as it all is, she held her own until she disclosed her own four year old son’s barium level, and then for a moment the tears showed up.

Recovering her considerable dignity and spirit, Crystal closed by saying, “…My life has become unrecognizable… Our family has become  collateral damage.  We are just one of the 33% failure rate of these gas companies.”  After quoting from the Pennsylvania Constitution, ‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water…’ Crystal challenged Governor Corbett:  “I am standing here now, to ask Governor Tom Corbett:  Why have my constitutional rights been taken from my family?”

About sixty activists went immediately to Governor Corbett’s office to find out.

WHYY Newsworks reported on the scene: “Natural gas protesters converge on Harrisburg.”

Excerpts (Scott Detrow reporting):  “Harrisburg briefly took on the feel of Madison Tuesday afternoon when anti-drilling protesters staged a sit-in outside Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s office. Chants of ‘Corbett’s a coward!’ and ‘Open the door!’ rang out, as filmmaker Josh Fox and other environmental advocates” tried to meet with Gov. Corbett to discuss gas drilling.

“Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action’s western Pennsylvania director, said he’s frustrated. ‘Drilling has been going on in Pennsylvania for almost four years now. And what has our state legislature done? They have done nothing. Nothing,’ he said.  ‘The problem keeps getting bigger and bigger. They keep drilling more wells. They keep having more blowouts. They keep contaminating more rivers.’ ”

WHYY’s Scott Detrow even reported on activists’ plans in the near future:  “The anti-drilling activists have vowed to return to Harrisburg July 20. They say they’ll spend all day–and all night–at the Capitol, if they don’t get a meeting.”

ABC 27 ran this post:  “Hundreds Rally at State Capitol for Gas Drilling Moratorium

PA Politics: Passion Evident at Marcellus Rally, But So Were Divisions (VIDEO)

Scranton Times-Tribune: Bradford County woman addresses gas rally

Fox 43 WPMT: 6/7 Harrisburg Marcellus Shale Rally (VIDEO)

Harrisburg Patriot News: Photo Gallery: Anti-drilling rally at the Capitol

Harrisburg Patriot News: Anti-drilling rally at the Capitol (VIDEO)

Harrisburg Patriot News: ‘Gasland’ director Josh Fox leads sit-in outside governor’s office

Marcellus-CURE Blog: Marcellus – CURE Leads March, Rally, and Sit-In at Gov. Corbett’s Office!(VIDEO)

Morning Call (Allentown): Stop drilling in Pa., ‘Gasland’ director says,Hundreds gather at state Capitol to call to halt on natural gas drilling in Marcellus Shale region

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Hundreds protest Marcellus Shale drilling in Harrisburg

Sustainability Now Radio: Fracktivism reaches new pitch at state Capitol (VIDEO)

USA Today: Josh Fox’s view: Ban fracking now

WFMZ-TV Channel 69: Pressure Builds In Pa. For Movement On A Shale Tax (VIDEO)

WGAL Channel 8: Some Protesters Call For Pa. Drilling To Stop Now, Environmental Groups Rally In Harrisburg

WHTM Channel 27 ABC: Hundreds rally at state Capital against gas drilling (VIDEO)

Finally, another few protesters, also fed up with gas drilling, did not go to Harrisburg but are regularly sitting out on their own private road as a nonviolent direct action to stop gas drilling trucks from coming through.  The protesters, in Lackawanna County, say they’ve tried contacting Chief Oil and Gas — the same company Crystal Stroud says contaminated her water — but they have only become more frustrated:

WNEP Channel 16: Human Roadblock Keeps Trucks Off Road (VIDEO)

“Drive up Stony Gap Road north of Williamsport in Anthony Township and, depending on the time of day, you will find someone blocking the way.

Betty McCall is there, helping a friend who said he has had enough.

“Today I’m sitting on the road to make sure no gas vehicles come up the road,” said McCall.

“We’re saying enough’s enough, stopping all this traffic. If they want to take us to court and fight us, fine, that’s where we want to be, because these guys are dead in the wrong,” said homeowner Scott McClain.

“In January I got a letter from Chief stating, sorry we sold these leases to Exco Resources Incorporated, don’t contact us anymore,” said McClain.

Neither Chief, nor Exco returned calls and McClain said both companies will not budge and help him.

So for the time being, Betty McCall is not budging either.

  1. June 10, 2011 9:44 am

    Great Coverage , Iris , and great Rally by all who attended– Their energy, focus and dedication will bear much fruit as we continue this journey for the Health of the Earth and all Life. Vera Scroggins, Citizens for Clean Water, Susquehanna County, Pa.

  2. June 11, 2011 3:47 pm

    Great turn out! Thank you for rallying for our water!!

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