Twelve Anti-Fracking Events Across Pennsylvania Push for Moratorium
“Even the bus driver honked in support,” Alice Wells of Philadelphia observed at a rally outside PA State Senator Farnese’s office, noting the sharp uptick in popular support for a halt on fracking. Organizers held twelve events across the state yesterday, coordinating nine rallies and three meetings with legislators. The protesters at each event pushed their Pennsylvania state senators to sign on to pro-moratorium legislation, as part of “Independence from Fracking Day,” organized by a coalition of eleven environmental, health, climate justice, and consumer advocacy groups.
After the rallies were announced, one legislator, Pennsylvania State Senator Dinniman, changed his mind and decided to sign on as a co-sponsor of the moratorium bill introduced by Senator Ferlo. The rally at Dinniman’s office became a thank-you rally.
Senator Dinniman said, “It is important that we take this action in the interest of clearly understanding the health and environmental impacts of fracking in the commonwealth.” He was unable to attend the rally but in a statement, comment that this is an excellent time for a moratorium: “Since there is still plenty of gas in capped wells and the pipeline infrastructure is still in the planning and approval stages, now is an excellent moment to have a moratorium for a set period of time so we can better understand the impact of natural gas pipelines on my Chester and Montgomery County district.”
Media Coverage: “Anti-Fracking Groups Lead Rallies Across Pennsylvania”
One Senator received protesters from four counties at two different locations simultaneously. Senator Scarnati, who has accepted cash and gifts from the gas industry and ignored his own constituents harmed by gas drilling, was besieged by a rally in western Pennsylvania in Jefferson County, generating television coverage here: “Protesters Take to Senator’s Offices.” Scarnati staff also met simultaneously with moratorium advocates in Wellsboro, Tioga County, at a meeting organized by Protecting Our Waters. From Channel 10:
BROCKWAY, JEFFERSON COUNTY – About 30 people protesting fracking met outside of Senator Joe Scarnati’s office in Brockway. The protesters were from across Clearfield, Jefferson and Elk Counties.
“We came out to try to tell Joe Scarnati that we would like him to enact a moratorium on fracking for many, many goods reasons primarily for the protection of our air, water and land” said protester Mike Kamandulis.
In Wayne County, in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania’s section of the Delaware River Basin, about a dozen people urged PA State Senator Lisa Baker to support a moratorium. To her credit, Lisa Baker took the lead on confronting the shady ITRR outfit hired by the state of Pennsylvania, which spied on anti-fracking activists doing “terrorist” activities like showing the documentary Gasland. But she has yet to take a pro-moratorium stand to protect her constituents’ health.
In “Anti-Fracking Groups Lead Rallies Across Pennsylvania,” the coverage from the “Philly burbs” (Courier Times, Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times) showed about 50 demonstrators at Sen. Chuck McIlhinney’s office in Doylestown (Bucks County). Phillyburbs also did a decent job getting the story straight about why the moratorium-to-ban wing of the movement is growing:
“Pennsylvania’s approach to fracking is ‘permit first’ and ‘figure the rest out later,’” Mountain Watershed Association spokeswoman Melissa Troutman said in a statement. “From water withdrawals to waste disposal, fracking in Pennsylvania is nothing more than an experiment. That is neither good policy nor planning for the commonwealth’s future.”
Another 50 demonstrators turned out in West Chester, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, also a Philadelphia suburb, for the Dinniman thank-you rally. The Daily Local reported, “Group in West Chester Calls for Halt to ‘Fracking'”
WEST CHESTER – “Frack is wack” was the sentiment echoing down Church Street in the borough Thursday afternoon as more than two dozen people rallied outside state Sen. Andy Dinniman’s office.
In Philadelphia, about 30 people turned out on South Broad Street to protest State Senator Larry Farnese’s refusal to support a moratorium on fracking despite pressure from his constituents, who care about health, safety, the environment and a sustainable economy and do not benefit from fracking. A small group of constituents met with Farnese post-rally. During the rally, Cameron Kline, a Farnese staffperson who did not know what the Halliburton Loophole is, or that people are getting sick from gas drilling, became better educated through sharp discussion and asked for more informtion.
Unfortunately City Paper, which used to do excellent investigative reporting on the issue of shale gas drilling and its impacts, failed to report on the growth of the moratorium movement, the shift in popular opinion towards a halt on fracking in Pennsylvania, the reasons for that shift, or the widespread demonstrations yesterday. City Paper focused primarily on Farnese’s stated reasons for not taking a stand. An initial headline, Constituents and Anti-Fracking Activists Rally at Sen. Farnese’s Office, was apparently re-written by someone to weirdly position Farnese “as if” he had ever supported a halt on fracking: “Farnese: Fracking Moratorium No Longer the Goal.”
Er, the goal for whom? The City Paper did give the last word, literally, to yours truly, quoting me as saying “This [moratorium] is the most important thing.” I explained to Farnese staff the moratorium would protect people more than regulations, because, for example, the cement casing failure rate went UP after “stronger regulations” regarding cement casing went into effect. I explained about about methane spewing into the air from all phases of fracking; and explained that people are getting sick, losing their clean drinking water, and becoming displaced from their homes.
“I’m leaving Pennsylvania because of what’s happening here”
The nonstop organizers in the Lehigh Valley generated a turnout of at least 25 people at their demonstration in Allentown plus this headline: Anti-Fracking Protest Calls on PA Sen Pat Browne to support state moratorium at LeHigh Valley Live. The reporter found participants to be both upset and determined:
“I’m as upset as you can be about this,” said Judith Joy Ross, 66, of Bethlehem. “I’m leaving Pennsylvania because of what’s happening here, and I’ve lived here all my life.”
But organizer Karen Feridun of Berks Gas Truth pointed out that a majority in Pennsylvania now call for a moratorium:
Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth and an organizer of the Allentown rally, said the majority of Pennsylvanians support that proposal.
She cited a recent poll by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College that says 49 percent of Pennsylvanians support shale gas extraction, but 59 percent support a moratorium to study the possible risks.
“There are people on the fence who would like to take a break and see what we can learn,” Feridun said. “But we don’t have that information because that kind of study has never been done.”
The statewide turnout of an estimated 200 participants for these targeted rallies on a weekday shows a sea change from several years ago. Early on, Pennsylvanians were more naiive about the impacts, the costs, and the fact that the drilling companies are increasingly dominated by multinational elite investors, who plan to sell gas overseas to raise the price.
Almost all the media coverage invites comments online, and all of the Senators invite correspondence. Hughes and Williams, the two Democrats from Philadelphia who broke ranks with the Dems and voted for Act 13, shocking constitutents, were spared by protesters yesterday, but this would be an excellent time to write and call them; they are not likely to be spared in the future.
The question is: will Pennsylvania legislators get the message before massive LNG export contracts are locked in, ensuring another increase in the scope, scale, speed and destructiveness of fracking and shale gas infrastructure? The race to stop LNG exports. oppose new fracked gas pipelines, and the race to win a moratorium on fracking in Pennsylvania and surrounding states is the same race.
The Last Word: Scarnati Says He “Knows Very Little”
At the demonstration in Brockway, Jefferson County, at Senator Scarnati’s office, Jenny Lisak reported,
A few of us early birds were able to have a very brief chat with Scarnati. I asked for his thoughts on climate change and he replied that he knew very little about it.
We had many supporting honks and a stranger came with refreshing drinks for everyone. The policeman was super friendly. Everyone signed a petition to support the moratorium and it was delivered to his office at the end of the hour.