Corbett’s Public Relations Kayaking Trip Interrupted by Protesters, Reality
At just after 8 am on Thursday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got into a blue kayak in Beach Lake, Pa to begin a 15 mile trip south on the scenic Delaware, the nation’s most pristine and ancient river. Some 30 kayakers, friends and associates, including Richard Allan, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources, on the misty morning, part of a two-day promotion of the region’s tourism resources. But from start to finish the trip was beset with challenges.
Josh Fox, Upper Delaware resident and director of the award-winning documentary Gasland, which brought the dangers of today’s extreme natural gas drilling to national attention, stood at the Beach Lake public launch along with other neighbors as the governor’s regatta launched, seeing him off with chants and signs.
Posted every few miles on the river’s banks were groups of protestors, challenging the governor’s pro-drilling policy with signs and chants–all coordinated with clockwork precision by area artist Brandi Merolla. A number of residents took to the water to communicate their concerns to Corbett up close, some wading into shallow stretches of the river, some paddling in their own kayaks and canoes alongside the governor.
Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper, joined the governor’s regatta, at Ten Mile River launch, accompanied in his canoe by his children, Iris 12, and Roan 10. Their 10 foot banner, whose ends the children held in their hands and whose middle their rowing father held with his teeth, read, “They Said It Was Safe to Drill in the Gulf.” Gillingham explained that 17 million people depend on the pure water that runs from the upper Catskills through this river valley, to New York and Philadelphia. The governor’s policies–including massive industry tax breaks, dismissal of local regulations, lack of scientific review and regulator oversight–have been outrageously pro-industry, reckless, and “unacceptable,” Gillingham said.
Delaware Riverkeeper President, Maya van Rossum, paddled with other Riverkeeper network members alongside the governor as well. Holding signs that said, “Don’t Be Frackin’ Crazy,” they talked to him about the dangers of drilling. When the governor capsized at some rapids, they assured him there was nothing to worry about—since the river corridor had not yet been fracked.
Delaware Riverkeepers has some great video of the protest, embedded below. To get the protesters out of earshot and view of the press, Corbett offered to meet with Delaware Riverkeeper and other anti-fracking groups present in September. Van Rossum hopes he’ll keep his side of the bargain.
At a news conference after the tour’s Friday leg, Corbett proclaimed, “Kayaking is a great way to see the resources of Pennsylvania.” Who knew that natural gas deposits were visible from the water?
The Philadelphia Inquirer story on this leg of the trip is an exercise in adulation, sighing that “the governor had to fend off a peaceful but vocal water assault by sign-waving, anti-gas-drilling activists” before comparing former Governor Rendell’s sissy insistence on hotels with Corbett’s manly camping trips.
Their story closes with this profound bit of wisdom from a man who’s passionately supported the industry that destroys rural Pennsylvania’s land and water:
A century ago we were not kind to our rivers . . . we have to be better stewards of the environment.
We’d love to see what exactly Corbett thinks that entails. It seems he somehow hasn’t realized that you can’t frack your state and preserve it, too.
Credit and thanks go to David Meiser for sending us this story and Nora Eisenberg for her great reporting. And, of course, thanks to all involved in organizing and pulling off this protest!