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Resistance at Riverdale: “It’s a Huge Blockade”

June 4, 2012

This Is Our Community: Riverdale Blockade June 1 2012

The biggest blockade of a fracking facility yet to be erected in Pennsylvania has now been in operation since 6:30 AM Friday morning, June 1st at 7 Riverdale Lane, Jersey Shore, PA. The remaining ten families living in Riverdale Mobile Home Park built the blockade, with help from an estimated 40 – 70 community members, activists, and from former residents recently forced out by Aqua America. Aqua America, based in Bryn Mawr, PA, and its corporate partner PVR, have fractured the community, dislocating about 25 families so far without compensation for their expense or for the destruction of their community. Aqua, with its corporate partner PVR, is forcing these vulnerable families out to build a water withdrawal facility to suck three million gallons of fresh water / day from the Susquehanna River, selling the water to fracking corporations.

We Will Fight For Our Homes: Riverdale Blockade, Day One

“Talk about heartbreaking, seeing these stripped down lots where homes used to be, it really tears at your heart,” commented Reverend Leah Schade, pastor and founder of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition. Reverend Schade led a prayer vigil, “Hands Across Riverdale,” in the community last Thursday evening, May 31st. “I put together a whole liturgy, a public lament. I put together a litany on justice and how we are to treat those most vulnerable.

“We put one candle for each family that’s already been forced out, and we read out loud the names of every family forced out by this fiasco. They left in fear; we said their names out loud with dignity, to honor and respect their lives. Then we did a blessing of the Susquehanna River and took a vow, made a prayer circle, meditated in contemplative fashion, then marched right in to prepare for the next day,” she said in a June 2nd interview. Short video interviews with the families are here.

Honoring Riverdale families; blessing the Susquehanna River

“Defending Rural America”: Creating a New Village Out of the Old

Reverend Leah Schade described Riverdale’s overnight transformation into a community of resistance in a tone of wonderment. “What was really cool was that I left at 9 pm Thursday and by the time I came back at 6:30 AM Friday, they’d not only set up tents and a blockade, but they’re creating this little village out of the refuse. They are using those bits and pieces [left by the stripping away of the homes of those already forced out by Aqua] to create a new village out of the old. Last night there were torrential downpours and a tornado watch and everyone slept in the tiny home of an elderly man… It was cozy, but we were all safe and dry.”

Describing the atmosphere on Day One of the blockade, when not one truck from Aqua showed up to test the blockade despite having declared June 1st to be the deadline for construction to begin on the water withdrawal facility and the deadline for all the families to leave their homes permanently, Reverend Schade continued,

What’s happening is very exciting. Early Friday morning there were 30 – 40 people at the blockade, and all told, 50 – 70 people have participated so far. What’s really interesting is people are coming in from Occupy Wall Street, and from as far away as Lancaster, PA; they’re taking their own photos and spreading the word.

There’s this rolling tide, in and out, of people helping out. It was so nice to see people who’d moved out come back; those who’d left joined those who’d stayed, and then still more came. The [remaining] residents could hardly believe it.

It’s a site that lends itself to… an emerging community. I really see something amazing happening here, especially if more people come. We are defending rural America.

Defending rural America: Riverdale residents speak out

Today, Riverdale blockade organizer Alex Lotorto commented, “The residents, and all of the supporters, did fantastic work yesterday. We built a sign, ‘AQUA AMERICA KILLED COMMUNITY,’ using the roof from one of the trailers. This morning there are 30, 35 people there, and fifteen of them are willing to be arrested. We have a full blockade on Riverdale Lane and a half-blockade on the other road, so residents can get through.” He continued,

About every 30 seconds, a frack truck goes by. One of the residents, who drives a truck for the industry, has been on the CB radio explaining the situation to the truckers. The resident, Eric, along with his wife and four kids, worked bit by bit on their home and finally finished renovating it a year and a half ago. Because he works for the industry, he went to the CEO of his company to see if a frack truck could pull his home out, and store it in their parking lot. But the industry said no. So Aqua he was forced to strip his whole home to bits all weekend.

At first he told his kids, “Don’t go near those weird-looking activists.” But I spent time with him listening to his dreams. He wants to buy land, to have seven acres, chickens, a healthy life for his family, and start a solar company. That’s his dream! The guy is like a saint. And he talks to all the other truckers on CB radio.

It’s unbelievable how much support there is for the residents; the frack trucks honk in sympathy as they go by. The only negative response has been from the out of state Halliburton truck drivers.

Updates, press releases, requests for help, action suggestions, video and more photos are here at saveriverdale.com.

Blockaders are actively and urgently calling for more people to join the blockade, bringing food, art supplies, funds and good spirits. A nonviolent code of conduct is established. Aqua America has agreed, for the first time, to sit down with lawyers for the Riverdale community, at its Bryn Mawr corporate headquarters, on Tuesday morning. Look here for updates.

Aqua PVR Annual Meeting June 6th

Meanwhile, the Aqua partner company which is actually in charge of constructing the water withdrawal facility at Riverdale, Penn Virginia Resource Partners, is coincidentally having its Annual Meeting at 10 AM on June 6th, this Wednesday, at The Villanova University Conference Center, 601 County Line Road, Radnor, Pennsylvania 19087. They plan to elect several directors; approve executive officer compensation; and “transact such other business as may properly come before the Annual Meeting, or any adjournments or postponements thereof.”

Environmental justice groups urge citizens to let the good people of Aqua PVR know what environmental stewardship means: “Don’t take the river out of Riverdale.” And Riverdale residents have said they would welcome the help of nonviolent activists in educating those attending PVR’s annual meeting about their demands, which are:

Residents are demanding that Aqua America PVR allow them to remain in their homes, compensate those residents who have been displaced, and acknowledge the right of return to those who have left but wish to come back.

So, share. Read more. Take action. Oh and… it may sound boring compared to a blockade, but don’t forget to call your legislators and tell them we need a moratorium on fracking right now. In the Delaware, Susquehanna, and Ohio River Basins: that means all of Pennsylvania. The faces of Riverdale are the faces of fracking: families with young children; a man on dialysis three times a week; someone in a wheelchair, an elderly woman with breast cancer; an intrepid woman with lively, articulate 11 year old twins; World War II veterans, being forced into homelessness.

This is where social justice and environmental justice meet, build, and grow together.

“I Love Riverdale” Young residents make signs

10 Comments
  1. June 4, 2012 4:40 pm

    Blessings and best wishes!

  2. Leah Schade permalink
    June 4, 2012 5:43 pm

    Thanks for this great update! Just a few corrections /clarifications: the prayer vigil was developed with input from the members of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition and the residents of Riverdale. Also I did not actually stay the night in the tents. Finally, the names of all the residents were read at the vigil, not just the ones who have left. The company has no regard for these people, but they have worth and value along with the land, water and all of God’s creation.

  3. RandomAction permalink
    June 4, 2012 10:50 pm

    Ban Fracking !! Enough public outcry and it will be abolished like lead paint and asbestos. Start here and sign every other petition you come across. Regardless of state or country or town. Vermont did it! Will NY or NJ be next? PA is being destroyed. There will be no water left to drink

    1. http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-natural-gas-development-in-the-susquehanna-river-basin
    2. http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6125&track=hp-051811-actioncenter
    3.http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/mothers-against-fracking/

    • Jet Miskis permalink
      June 6, 2012 2:58 pm

      It’s already too late for PA. You can sign petitions “until you are blue in the face” and it will still be too late for PA. Hey, but sign away; I do. The only change that anyone can make now is to get involved in who is elected locally. However, with “Citizens United” corporate money, you would have to give up your life to volunteer for a cadidate, every day, none stop, around the clock, and you would have to have an army just like you doing the same, and it still won’t work. “Money talks.” “Citizens United” and our Republican leadership have sold us out. Things are going to have to get REAL BAD before the people will get united in numbers. This state, this nation, hasn’t hit rock-bottom, yet. Republicans, and the Democrat “POSERS,” truly have the power. Rock-bottom is closer than most think. So, they are holding the ball, it’s their game. Let’s see if they frack-it-up worse than they accused of the true Democrats. This is not the 1960s. People are much too lethargic. Time, unfortunately, will tell; and, a lot of people will be damaged in the interim.

  4. Bryan Roof permalink
    June 5, 2012 12:03 pm

    Seems they could have and should have found somewhere different for a water withdrawal facility. A moratorium will solve what?

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      June 5, 2012 4:35 pm

      In answer to your question, a moratorium is the only way to stop the ongoing damage from high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. Regulations do not limit the damage. For example, toxic fracking waste is dumped both legally and illegally in PA; compressor station emissions are not aggregated; the silica dust from frac sand is putting people’s lungs at risk both where it’s extracted in Wisconsin and in fracking areas; open frack pits harm birds, aquatic life and the whole food chain. Methane migration is a daily occurrence and so is toxic flowback leaking into soil and aquifers from frack pits. Pipelines, if allowed to go forward, would destroy more habitat than all the rest of the industry put together. The sheer scale of the industry is a big red flag.

      The well casing failure rate in PA is 6.2% (PA DEP figures for 2010 and 2011) and getting worse in 2012 instead of better. A moratorium would enable us to stop, step back, assess the damage done so far, and create a sane local, regional and national energy policy instead of first doing massive irreversible damage and then saying “oops” years later. Epidemiological studies, decades from now, will document the decline in water and air quality due to high-volume fracking; along with predictable increases (based on experience out West) in asthma, breast cancer, and many other human health impacts. Radium 226, uranium, benzene: is that what we want in our water and air?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/safe-hydrofracking_b_1520574.html

      Climate scientists are already documenting the fact that due to gas drilling, methane from gas drilling just shifted (in 2011) to the #1 position in terms of methane’s contribution to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.. In short, a moratorium would enable sanity to prevail where collective suicide is now being slowly committed. If we had a sane society, the large-scale poisoning of billions of gallons of our precious freshwater in order to wastefully, destructively harvest a potent greenhouse gas would not be happening. If we had an even modestly sane society, it would not be happening without a moratorium first, responsible scientific dialogue, cumulative impact studies and Health Impact Studies. None of that has happened in Pennsylvania; to insist that it must is a moderate stance.

      Meanwhile, the “Faces of Fracking” means people impacted by all phases of gas drilling, from water withdrawals to drilling, fracking, compressor station operation, pipeline construction, and cracker plants. The people of Riverdale have been sold down the river — their village was re-zoned from “residential” to “industrial” without them ever being even informed — so it’s a great thing that they turn out to have so many friends.

      • Jet Miskis permalink
        June 6, 2012 3:12 pm

        There is no chance in h_ll of a moratorium! Two years ago, maybe. Not now. It will never happen. It is too late for that. Come of folks, let’s do the math: 50 Pennsylvania Senators and the majority are Republicans and support the gas drilling industry, their voting record (including Senate Bill 1100 and ACT 13) is proof. 203 House Representatives and the majority are Republicans and support the gas drilling industry, their voting record (including PA House Bill 1950 and PA ACT 13……………..for those that don’t know, once the Governor signs a Bill into law then it becomes an “ACT,” a LAW!); now, let’s not forget the Democrat “Posers” (who are not only DINOs, Democrats In Name Only and “Blue Dog Democrats,” Conservative) who support the gas industry 100%. So you see that WE DON’T HAVE THE VOTE FOR A MORATORIUM! There is not a single Representative or Senator who would even bother to put a moratorium Bill up. The Bill would never even make it out of the Committees in which it has to clear first, before it get up for a vote. The Committees are stacked with more Republicans than Democrats; so, it won’t even be allowed to come out of the Committee to be voted on; it will be killed in it’s respected Committee. Okay, I will stop there. Anyone saying we need to press for a moratorium doesn’t get much serious attention.

  5. J David Brimmer permalink
    June 5, 2012 10:17 pm

    This is beautiful and heartbreaking and very inspiring. Blessings on your struggle, God grant you clarity and fortitude.

  6. Jet Miskis permalink
    June 6, 2012 2:41 pm

    There is nothing for the people to do now, it’s too late. You might as well pack and and move out. Those, who could have done something, who really matter in the decisions of your lives, meaning your legislators and our Gov. Tom Corbett, don’t care that you’ll be loosing your homes. All anyone has to do is follow their political donations and voting records, concerning the Marcellus Shale; although, few people do. This could be any business coming into your community to purchase that land. Even the courts would not support you’re wanting to stay put. It was known that the owner wanted to sell. The possibility of the new owner developing that land for another use was very real. I’m sure, because of the Sunshine Laws, the residents of Riverdale (including the entire county) where informed, via the news papers and local municipality website , of local town meetings about rezoning potentials. Common people, unfortunately, don’t usually pay attention to local politics. They are too busy making a living. So, they didn’t have anyone in the room to object to the rezoning? They are merely another statistic of what has happened, what can/will potentially happen with the growth of this industry. I know it’s no consolation but this industry is effecting the lives of many people; and, you are not alone. Unfortunately, there are, and will be, many more gas industry driven scenarios, similar to your predicament, to follow. In this case, “Ignorance is [NOT] bliss” and “with growth, comes pain.” How many of those residents knew about PA ACT 13 prior to it’s implementation? Water is this industry’s raw material and they are completely protected to get it which ever why they need to (Research- Riparian Common Rights Law). Democrats are taking a painfully long time to learn (and they may never learn) that since “Citizens United” has passed (notice: Wisconsin Gov. Recall election?) they had better step up and get involved or be a victim of the corporate invasion that is HERE; or, do you need more proof?

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