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AP Gets it All Wrong: Hacks, Frackers, and the Myth of Converted Fractivists

October 9, 2013
MarkWest plant billows toxic smoke in Washington County, Pennsylvania

The MarkWest plant pictured here, in Houston, Pennsylvania separates ethane and propane from methane. From Photo by Mike Jones

Two days ago, fracking opponents (and anyone who appreciates good journalism) were disappointed to read the AP story “Some Anti-Drilling Activists Change Tactics, Tone” by Kevin Begos and Michael Rubinkam. It’s a story that bears more resemblance to a fracking industry spin piece than a serious attempt at news. The story’s basic idea is that many former opponents of fracking are now embracing the industry, either for money or because they’ve seen the light.

We’ll take it from the top. According to the AP story,

Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas.

The story gives one example of “former” critics signing leases. One. And that person is Robert Donnan, who  was essentially forced by Range Resources to do so. (More on that below!)

As for “Speaking about the environmental benefits of gas,” where, exactly? Victoria Switzer and Rebecca Roter are the two fracking activists and shalefield residents portrayed as turncoats in the story. But Google searches of “Victoria Switzer natural gas” and “Rebecca Roter natural gas” turn up…this article, and a lot of older articles talking about the problems with fracking.

A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes.

Considering that the article uses their public, official endorsement as a point, it’s curious that this pro-fracking candidate isn’t named.

Maybe it’s because that candidate is former DEP Secretary John Hanger. While John Hanger is pro-fracking and has an uneasy relationship with fractivists, as DEP head, he was willing to investigate what was happening in Dimock, accusing gas driller Cabot of “living on a planet where the facts don’t matter” when Cabot tried to deny responsibility for the water contamintaion in Dimock.

Also, every single other viable gubernatorial candidate supports fracking, unfortunately. It’s no surprise that the families chose to support the one proposing the tightest regulations.

For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal.

Another unsupported statement. Who has called it a betrayal? “Victoria Switzer has betrayed no one,” responds Stephen Cleghorn, fellow anti-fracking activist in a comment on the ABC version of the AP story. Also, nice syntactical opposition of “reality” and fracking opponents.

But Pennsylvania residents concerned about drilling no longer have the luxury of simply calling for a ban.

With fracking continuing under-regulated, families still left without drinkable water (hence our Water Drive), and proposals in the works to build a 3-foot fracked gas pipeline to Philadelphia, there has always been more to do than “simply call for a ban.”

Environmentalists recently joined charitable foundations and major oil and gas companies to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which aims to protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region […]

Wait, which environmentalists? Environmental Defense Fund, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and Clean Air Task Force, who have always supported fracking, and PennFuture, for which John Hanger (abovementioned pro-fracking candidate) served as Founding President for eight years. What a sea change.

[…] That’s similar to what Switzer is trying to accomplish in Dimock, the tiny crossroads where pro- and anti-drilling forces descended after state regulators held a gas driller responsible for contaminating residential water supplies with methane.

Those mean fracking-impeding state regulators…wait, which state regulators? Oh, John Hanger’s DEP. But earlier in the AP article, he was the unnamed pro-fracking gubernatorial candidate. He’s versatile, that John Hanger!

Switzer and Roter co-founded Breathe Easy Susquehanna County […]  The group has won plaudits for its non-confrontational style.

Another vague, unsupported statement. Plaudits from whom? The industry?

Robert Donnan’s “Conversion”: The True Story

More shameful than these usual half-truths and omissions is the flat-out lying about Robert Donnan. Donnan, an outspoken fracking opponent, signed onto a gas lease last year with other heirs of his family’s property.

Here’s part of the AP story:

Robert Donnan had been an outspoken critic of drilling in general and Range Resources, the company that sunk the first Marcellus well in 2004, in particular. In February, he leased his land to Range, according to public documents obtained by The Associated Press.

[…] Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company views Donnan’s decision to sign a lease after years of criticizing the industry “as an endorsement” of drilling, since he’s clearly aware of the risks involved.

The AP story uses Donnan’s supposed lucrative conversion or hypocrisy as its backbone. The Pittsburgh TribLive version of the AP story even ends with this:

Donnan is still speaking out. He denounced drilling at a public forum in Pittsburgh — though without telling the audience he had signed a lease.

Donnan’s full, outrage-inducing account of what really happened is beautifully-told on his own blog: “‘Hatchet Job’ Backfires on AP’s Begos & Range.”

Here is a short summary of the facts:

  • Donnan’s family thought they were safe from drilling, since they’d been advised that the industry would need a 50% heirship interest signed to drill.
  • Range Resources began drilling Donnan’s family’s land, claiming that two heirs had signed a lease. Turns out that’s all they needed.
  • Donnan’s family discovered that these “heirs” who signed weren’t even related to them.
  • Donnan was unable to find a lawyer who would take the case against the big, rich, highly aggressive Range Resources without upfront payment, which Donnan could not afford.
  • Drilling had already begun, and now Donnan’s family knew that all the gas company needed was one or two real family members, not a majority. Worried that someone might truly sign a bad lease that would allow impoundments and well pads on their land, some relatives signed leases, but highly protective ones.
  • Range Resouces told Donnan that if he didn’t also sign the lease, they’d just keep his share of the money.

Writes Donnan,

By not signing a lease, I would forfeit money that would go back into Range’s purse. By signing, I would have some additional funds to continue my fractivist efforts.

Does this sound like someone who’s had a change of heart?

Cleghorn writes, “These people are not giving up, far from it. Begos underestimates them if that is all he sees. They have made strategic adjustments because they live in a gas field now. They are part of what some of us call the ‘full spectrum resistance’ to shale gas development.”

  1. October 9, 2013 9:20 am

    Nice summary od what is wrong with the AP story. I did get another reply from Begos that he has been reporting on the fossil fuel divestment campaign among college students, and I wrote him to compliment him on that story.

    I think he has a blind spot about the fracking fight, too much seeing it in harsh winner/loser way, when it is quite a bit more complicated than that as we know, We need to make a point as best we can of educating him, not alienating him.

  2. October 9, 2013 9:37 am

    There is a dangerous schism that has developed in the fight to save PA, and the planet, which is extremely damaging. There are those who want to negotiate with the ones who stand to benefit the most by driving us out. Then there are those who refuse to accept what is happening that have donned horse blinders to convince themselves that if bad things aren’t happening to them, they’re not happening at all. However, there are also those of us who have gotten past ‘better regulations, best management practices, and regulatory protection’ and realize that any attempt at regulating this industry is a conciliatory approach.

    To say that “we need to make the industry voluntarily behave better” is to accept their toxic presence as part of our way of life, and to allow their intrusion into the lives of our children and grandchildren. Victoria and Rebecca’s resignation, and attempts to negotiate with the industry and appeal to our broken political system, is behavior akin to those who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. A psychosis that develops over time when the captives begin to collaborate with, and support the mission of their captors in the hope of being spared.

    I hear some say that this is fight we can not win. That may, or may not, be true, but that doesn’t matter. No one goes into battle assured of winning. People go into battle because what is at risk is worth fighting for, and it’s the right thing to do. I do not pretend to know if this battle can be won. What I do know is that we having nothing to lose by standing up and fighting back that we will not surely lose by doing nothing.

    Too many people have been harmed, and too many lives and communities have been torn apart. If in our fight we can spare one life, one family, one community, it’s worth it. Our children are worth it.

    Although I do believe that Victoria’s and Rebecca’s intentions are sincere, I also believe they are misguided, and are unintentionally allowing John Hanger, and the other political industry appeasers to use them as ‘environmental cover’ for purely political reasons.

  3. October 9, 2013 10:42 am

    Thank you Coryn and Stephen for this post. Victoria Switzer-resident of the Dimock Gasfield

  4. David Ira Kagan permalink
    October 9, 2013 10:42 am

    Bravo John Trallo!

  5. October 9, 2013 11:34 am

    The Fossil Fuel Empire must not reign supreme and the TPP, Trans Pacific Project will make the Empire stronger. Check it out. Bob Donnan I am with you as you fight these B…….. daily. Thanks for all you do.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      October 10, 2013 1:58 pm

      Celia is right! The TransPacific Partnership (TPP) plans to strip every last right that even our government has to uphold moratoria, bans or regulations anywhere — it would make the existing “extraction colony” into an indestructible reality, and the Obama Administration plans to approve it by the end of this year. We have real enemies, not just the industry but looming huge agreements like the TPP.

      Bob Donnan, whose thousands of photos and bold truth-telling at are a hugely important part of our whole movement of resistance; who has befriended and stood up for Stephanie Hallowich, Beth Voyles, Darrel Smitsky and so many other impacted people; Rebecca Roter, who has stood up to the industry both within the system and outside it and who has done untold good to support impacted people directly; Victoria Switzer, who shared her documentation, her story, her voice and her testimony when she could have just shut up and stayed home and suffered quietly without a public whimper — are ALL part of our full-spectrum resistance. It seems that Wendy Lynne Lee did not read Bob Donnan’s full testimony — it was Range who signed up non-family members, began drilling, and then other family members, not Bob Donnan, DID sign; then his only choice was to receive money or not; his signing had no bearing on drilling or not drilling whatsoever, at that point. In any case I urge her to read Bob Donnan’s story in detail because it is Range Resources that deserves our anger, not Bob Donnan, in my view! As to Calvin Tilman, that excellent man was the first to talk about “best practices” — back in 2010 he was talking about it in his Texas context, loud and clear, even as he took the time to come east repeatedly, shaming the PA Rendell regime, educating the DRBC, sounding the warning bell in PA shale country, and standing up for the people of Dimock and for all impacted people, forcefully. He ultimately moved away to protect his family’s health, and has never been anything less than a strong, outspoken critic of the shale gas industry, then or now.

      I happen to be on the moratorium-to-ban spectrum myself, because of climate, because of water and air, and because of not only innocent humans but also innocent living creatures who are being poisoned and killed. I can’t stand it. I also can’t stand to see needless “horizontal hostility” rip into resisters in this movement who believe in multiple tactics.

      I believe that this conversation is valuable. It’s important to be discussing the specific tactics that are necessary at this moment in the movement, and to critique and lovingly challenge each other when we disagree with each other’s decisions, but we are, actually, all in this together and we need each other. Personal attacks, especially without full information, may play into the industry’s hands. In the 60s, 70s and beyond, the Black Power movement, the Women’s movement, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement all had their schisms, which COINTELPRO and other programs consciously preyed upon to seed mistrust, rumors, and hostility within the movement, to destroy it from the inside. So, let’s get on with the full-spectrum resistance instead of engaging in full-spectrum “horizontal hostility.” Keep up the discussion… and, please don’t take it personally if anyone’s comments are delayed; we are doing multiple campaigns with no paid staff, and in the past people’s comments have sometimes been delayed for days simply because we couldn’t get to it. (Also, we are spammed ALL the time and cannot publish comments in “real time” or you’d see endless spam).

      • October 10, 2013 3:47 pm

        HI Iris,

        Thanks you for this thoughtful missive. I’d like to raise a challenge to the “full-spectrum of resistance” imagery/metaphor:

        While I appreciate that there are many differences of opinion with respect to STRATEGY towards a ban (and TPP makes THIS struggle more important now than ever), the spectrum cannot accommodate the position taken by Breathe Easy without seriously undermining its own credibility. Breathe Easy is NOT for a ban. The vast majority of the anti-industrialized extraction movement IS. In fact Breathe Easy IS for continued extraction. Their position IS concession: “Since the industry is going to drill anyways, let’s make choices about limiting the harm for some of us.” Or: “Hey, gas industry, we’d like you to stop! But we think you can do this compressor thing safely, so, that’s ok, carry on.” That concession IS to continued extraction.

        So, how can that be accounted in any sensible way as on the “spectrum of resistance”? Their’s is not resistance–it is resignation with the hope the industry will play fair. But we all KNOW this industry–and its overwhelming evidence that it does not play fair, will not play fair unless its suits their profit margins, and that even THAT pretense to “play fair” WILL end the moment their profits are endangered. Even when we think they’re “playing fair,” they will be illegally dumping, illegally venting, illegally drilling, illegally using inferior casing materials–and that under the current law they absolutely can and do get away with this every minute of every day.

        They’re just not on the spectrum–no more than the industry is.

        OR–should we invite Range Resources to the spectrum of resistance? Cabot? WPX? XTO? Anadarko? Chevron? Shell? Aqua America?

        If Breathe Easy counts, so does Chesapeake.

        As for Donnan–let me offer an analogy:

        Let’s say that a gang of violent marauders stormed into his house and informed him that they were going to rape his daughter. They make it clear that they’re going to do this whether or not they buy her from him. “Well,” says the father, “I guess I might as well take the money, and I’ll use it to pay for self-defense classes for the daughters for my whole community.”

        Is THAT acceptable? Or should he try to fight off the marauders?

        I still say “fight,” and what I know is that none of the social movements Iris mentions got anywhere via concession to a power structure that effectively bribed them to save themselves at the price of conceding to the decimation of their allies.

    • October 10, 2013 7:19 pm

      Wendy… would you “walk a mile in my shoes”?

      • October 11, 2013 6:54 pm

        Bob–that you don’t think I–and thousands of others–are walking in shoes like yours or worse is the conundrum. I grant that you have all suffered seriously in Susquehanna County–but, and I say this with nothing but respect–your’s is simply not the only suffering. Folks displaced from Riverdale are homeless–and they started out with likely less than you have even now. I am far more comfortable than many–and therefore far more responsible to speak out–and I have taken risks I’ll bet you haven’t to document this nightmare.

        But the real point is that many of us ARE walking in your shoes, and we WOULD have made different choices.

      • October 12, 2013 8:48 pm

        Bob’s shoes are not located in Susquehanna County. He is from SW PA. Susquehanna is diagonally across the state from where he is in NE PA. His blog is worth checking out.

  6. Coryn S. Wolk permalink*
    October 9, 2013 2:04 pm

    Thank you for the update Stephen, as well as your permission to republish some of your words here. Victoria, you are very welcome, and thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.

    John, thank you for your comment. While I can absolutely see where you’re coming from, I think Stockholm Syndrome is rather strong language. It seems to me that everyone mentioned in the article has taken carefully considered positions. (Whether or not I or you personally agree with them.) The industry is good at putting our movement in damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t positions–if some people take more moderate or concilatory stances in the hope of quicker improvements, we’re portrayed as a divided and capitulating movement, and if we all take the strongest possible stance, we’re all unreasonable extremists.

  7. October 9, 2013 3:23 pm

    I tried to post this comment seven hours ago–and it was not posted. I have now posted the comment with a critical remark about respect for freedom of expression at several other sites, and would like to see POW take itself seriously enough to withstand some critical commentary on an article:

    With all due respect, whether the in-the-tank-for-the-gas-Kevin Begos gets this right or wrong is truly irrelevant to the facts about the schism in the anti-fracking movement.
    The only thing more fundamentally dangerous to clean air than the industry itself are those who are willing to play ball with the industry. That “dance with the devil” not only converts the dancers into agents of real harm, it is an even greater threat to the “audience” standing by.
    Here’s why:

    “Best practices” is nothing but code for “amount of harm,” “who “we” are willing to sacrifice to that harm,” and “hide the harm.” Anyone who concedes to this–and NONE of us has ANY excuse for believing anything other than what John spells out with respect to what the industry can actually be COUNTED on to do–in fact contributes to that harm DIRECTLY. They do so by HELPING the industry to conceal the fact that “best practices” is about amount of harm–they are choosing to help themselves perhaps (though eve this will NOT be the case save cosmetically), and they are clearly willing to concede to harm those who do not have the WEALTH and the influence to dance with the devil.
    Victoria Switzer’s claim that “We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” is–with all due respect–just b.s. She had to work with the industry to save herself–and I appreciate that she has been really harmed. But that does not excuse the HARM others WILL suffer on account of her choices. When is it ever ethically permissible to concede to the real harm of others in order to insure oneself is somehow protected. Moreover, it is deeply short-sighted. She will NOT escape continued harm, and she absolutely knows better.

    Perhaps one response is that I just don’t understand what they’re living with. Indeed, I don’t. But that is absolutely irrelevant–and I am far closer than they think about many of us who take real risks to tell real stories about THEIR harm. I know better than to think that trading my own suffering for the suffering of many many MANY others is acceptable.
    And this is a FALSE dichotomy: “”The choice is either sign the lease and have some control, or don’t sign and have no control” over what happens in the area, said Geoffrey Smith, adding the family will still keep an eye on everything the drillers do.” NO–thge other choice is to FIGHT.

    Moreover, while I appreciate Donnan’s dilemma–and it is AWFUL–to take the money from Range Resources in order to keep fighting the gas is ludicrous.

    This is called hypocrisy, and no matter how we try to wrap it, green wash it, and make it look more acceptable by promising to do nice things with the dirty money–it’s still dirty money, Donnan’s still screwed, and the harm is now not just for him–but for all of us.The only choice is to FIGHT. What the “middle ground” folks have done is chosen their own parochial interests over the welfare and futures of others–all others, since they are now a party to a contribution to climate change they could have avoided.

    The only “breathe easy” is the clean air for ALL of us–not just the few who can afford to get into bed with an industry that they KNOW thinks them nothing but convenient green wash.A luxury to keep fighting for a ban? Hardly. It is a luxury to be in a position to dance with the devil; it’s a supreme luxury to be in a position to stop fighting for a ban–and not one the vast majority of us out here enjoy.

    As for those who’d aim criticism at me for daring to speak out against activists inside the anti-extreme extraction movement–for providing fuel to the industry by naming the schism in the movement, I say this: there is no “spectrum” within this movement that can possibly sustain a contingent that is effectively–consequentially–PRO-fracking. We can try to paper this over all we want by announcing idiocies like “they’re not pro-fracking, their just trying to be “realistic.” But from the industry’s point of view, IT’S ALL THE SAME. They have opened their doors (and their wallets) to an industry that is KILLING us for money. It doesn’t matter what their motives are. That’s all just excuse-mongering after the facts. And the acts are clear: whether Breathe Easy gets a few folks cleaner air or not (and it will not), the dangers to all of us at every other juncture from well pad to export depot is a threat to the health, safety, integrity, and futures of us all.

    I can say or do absolutely nothing that creates more harm than THIS.

    As for the Center for Sustainable Shale Development–here are the FACTS:…/

    As for “best practices” and “better laws”:…/

    As for John Hanger:…/

    Sustainable Shale Development: The “Middle Ground” That’s Newspeak for Fraud

    Wendy Lynne Lee
    Executive Committee
    Shale Justice

  8. October 9, 2013 10:24 pm

    Wonderful analysis and comments. I can see now how it’s possible–when one is backed into a corner– to take money from the frackers, and still be against fracking.

    A related analogy from Catholic school: If at the point of a knife, if you are forced to steal a candy bar and eat it, you do not commit a sin even if the candy bar tastes good as you eat it.

    I’m always trying to minimize my personal fossil fuel footprint–but I can’t live in this corner of the world and do without fossil fuels entirely–so I am also “backed into a corner” by our soclety’s way of life. Does being against fracking and still using fossil fuels make me a hypocrite? Of course not!

    We’ve all got our teeth sunk in the hand of fossil fuels. But some of us are looking for a better hand. One such “hand” to start with is a clothesline. If you have any backyard (or basement) and you are against fracking, you have no excuse not to hang out your laundry–instead of using a dryer, of course!

  9. Rebecca Roter permalink
    October 9, 2013 11:43 pm

    John……..perhaps you have not read Breathe Easy Susquehanna’s Mission/Goal/Strategy Statement; it has notihing to do with regulations. BESC is about advocating for clean air, public health, our health throught BEST TECHNOLOGIES like the Quantum Leap Zero Emissions Dehydrators, like the PICARRO SURVEYOR, like the CONTINUOS EMISSIONS MONITORING station with real time quantitative and qualitative data for compressor stations. BESC is not about regulations, but instead TECHNOLOGY.

    As far as the Stockoholm Syndrome, the air pollution being emitted from the compressors in my county are very very real……….Air Pollution is not a SYNDROME it is a HEALTH RISK.

    • October 10, 2013 2:09 am

      Actually, I have read it. I am familiar with the technologies you mentioned, HOWEVER, simply asking the industry ‘nicely’ isn’t going to convince them to use it. It also does not address the other issues like: water contamination/depletion, loss of viable land for agriculture, surface spills, pipeline leaks/blowouts, contamination of our food source, habitat destruction, loss of forest canopy, the opportunity for invasive species to invest/alter the ecology of the region, and the massive tree cutting that will be inevitable to accommodate this operation. Remember, the forests are the lungs of this planet. They are what cleans the air. You once told me that you were following Calvin Tillman’s lead on dealing with air quality issues. Need I remind you, Calvin’s solution was to move his family away from it away from it because it was not possible to mitigate it. Regulations, either voluntary or mandatory are simply the practice of adjusting the flow, or the rate of damage. Perhaps you can give me one example of where these measures, and technologies you referred to have worked. In any case, your misguided attempt to improve your community’s air quality does not justify you undermining the efforts of those of us who are not about to negotiate trade-offs in our way of life. Susquehanna County is not the center of the universe. Other areas of the state, and the country have also been impacted, including mine. That does not mean I will stand down and negotiate terms of surrender for the areas that have not been impacted. The industry is only 10% into their development in PA. It’s not possible to un-do the damage they’ve already done, but it is possible to stop them from inflicting more damage on others. It is immoral and irresponsible for anyone to say, it’s in my backyard, I couldn’t stop it, so you shouldn’t try. It is my opinion that those who will not support a moratorium, or a ban are afraid that if this industry is shut down, there will be no negotiating for ‘best mismanagement’ practices. You’re right in saying “air pollution is not a syndrome, and it is a health risk”. However, thinking that those who have knowingly put your health at risk by causing the pollution are going to voluntarily ‘make it better’ is a ‘syndrome’ and a symptom of victim mentality. Like many others, I have been victimized by this industry, but I will never submit to, or resign myself to behaving like a victim. That’s not an example I would ever want to set for my children, or grandchildren. If what you have, and hold dear is worth fighting for, you fight. You’ve got nothing to lose by standing up that you will not lose by doing nothing… or negotiating your terms of acceptance.

  10. Coryn S. Wolk permalink*
    October 10, 2013 12:25 am

    Hi Wendy,

    I’m sorry about the delay in publishing your comment, which I edited for length and content. We do welcome a constructive dialogue (and criticism!) in the comments. WordPress occasionally holds comments in pending instead of publishing them automatically, so as in your case, there’s sometimes a delay before we see and manually publish them.

    • October 10, 2013 5:34 am

      Wendy’s spleen-ventings do need to often be edited for length and content, yes. However, I sort of wish that her thin-condom analogy had been left in. It was relevant in that the REAL thin condom was the one that she used herself when she recently burned up all that jet fuel to go to Greece – the as-leaky-as-a-Cabot-well-casing, condom of the fact that the part of the fossil-fuel racket that she was getting in bed with was “only” the consumption end.

  11. October 10, 2013 6:55 am

    There are two things that must be said here:

    1. None of our posts should be edited. Such is a violation of freedom of expression, and if the content was offensive, that’s because it was accurate. It IS posted on my FB page should anyone like to see it. It’s an analogy involving rape.

    2. Tom Frost misunderstands my argument fundamentally–and (like Claudia Crane’s) intimates that he misunderstands the issues relevant here. THAT none of us escape using fossil fuels in one thing–a given, in fact, insofar as we have to live. My venture to Greece was part of my job–and for the record I was organizing for the anti-fracking movement while I was there in addition to doing my job. But what Breathe Easy is about is not the fact of our use of fossil fuels–it’s about a very different kind of concession, namely, to actively working with the industry towards the use of best practices and specifically for fracking and its infrastructure. The trouble is that we all know that “best practices” is simply code for “business as usual.” We ALL know that the industry is going to USE Rebecca Roter, Victoria Switzer, et al as GREEN WASH–while they continue to pollute. And THEY know it.

    The fact is that just because none of us (including Mr. Frost) can entirely avoid the use of fossil fuels–that’s the way this economy is set up–NONE of us as to act as propaganda FOR the industry–and that’s what, for example, an endorsement of John Hanger really is.

    Lastly, the “either you use fossil fuels or you’re off the grid entirely” argument is a false dilemma. Far and away more thinking: We cannot escape the use of fossil fuels, but that does not imply that we should not minimize our use. I do. Every day. Significantly. But I also know that for as long as the gas industry can bamboozle people the way it is through Breathe Easy, they’ll have no incentive to retool their businesses towards alternatives–and neither will most people.

    The contribution I made to climate change going to work at U. Athens is less than a drop in the bucket compared to what that industry’s best practices can accomplish inside a minute in Susquehanna County.

    And, the industry doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about Breathe Easy–and will do anything they possibly can to get around regulations and the bogus “best practices”:

    Wendy Lynne Lee

    • October 10, 2013 8:24 am

      The fact that no one can escape using fossil fuels is a given, yes; but so too is the fact that no one can escape having to deal with the extraction thereof, sometimes in their own backyard, and sometimes even in a backyard that they never planned, and still never plan, to move away from. And that it why some of us Susquehanna Countians stand by our various rollings with the punches of the gasmen.

      But I agree about conserving all we can; I’ve never subscribed to “either you use fossil fuels or you’re off the grid entirely”. The concept of NOT conserving (the best name for which is “extreme energy consumption”, the other side of the coin of what Josh Fox felicitously calls “extreme energy production”) is something that I’ve spent my whole life fighting despite being perennially screamed at about how I should roll with the punches of THAT.

      So, I know all about NOT rolling with the punches. But I also know when TO roll with the punches. Captain Iverson in the movie “The Core”, said it best: “You have to be ready to make the shitty call.”

  12. October 10, 2013 1:28 pm

    Tom–I appreciate what you’re saying about rolling with the punches–sometimes we DO have to do that. And I also appreciate that things suck big in Susquehanna County. The problem is that what Breathe easy and its members do and will do in the future has serious and potentially devastating consequences for others–MANY others. And however much you’ve been harmed, that does not relieve you of responsibility to those others.

    First, the industry is LYING to you all about their willingness to use “best practices.” The evidence–including what I posted to you this morning here–makes that abundantly clear.

    Second, even if they weren’t lying, “best practices” still makes a substantial contribution to climate change.

    Third, by negotiating with the industry Breathe Easy is setting a tone of conciliation and concession that the industry will use to its maximal advantage–to drill more, build more compressors, more pipeline, more export depots–this, obviously, is going to do serious harm well beyond Susquehanna County. Moreover, Breathe easy is doing the work of the industry for it by being an industry green wash and by giving the green light to more drilling.

    Fourth–you might respond that Breathe easy is not giving a green light to more drilling–but I guarantee that it is. Conciliation, the willingness to negotiate is understood by the gas industry as concession and defeat–and they are going to treat you as such. And the consequences qua pipeline will harm us all.

    In short–sometimes the right thing to do is negotiate. Sometimes the right thing to do is fight.

    This is the latter, and the reason why is because the only thing you’re negotiating–just like in Vichy France–are the terms of your defeat and your servitude.

    And no royalty payment is going to erase the stain of that.


    • October 11, 2013 9:24 am

      1. Nothing “sucks” about the vast majority of the square miles, nor the vast majority of the people, of Susquehanna County.

      2. ME “been harmed” by the industry? NO! When I slow the industry down as much as I can, which BTW I’ve forgotten more ways than you’ve learned of how to do, I do so not for myself but for more parties than are even on your radar.

  13. Coryn S. Wolk permalink*
    October 10, 2013 6:48 pm

    Hi everyone, while we’ve left the comments open for now to allow discussion to continue here, please keep your comments civil.

  14. Mary Sweeney permalink
    October 11, 2013 3:12 pm

    Yes, there was a lot of spin in the Begos article. And while we’re on the subject of spin, why didn’t Wolk talk to those activists in PA who believe that a moratorium or a ban is what is really needed and that the regulatory approach (voluntary or otherwise) is not going to work? I know these people exist, so where are the quotes from them? Was any effort made to reach them and get their opinion?

    • October 12, 2013 1:52 am

      Thank you, Mary. You’re point is well made, and spot on.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      October 13, 2013 7:58 pm

      Hi Mary, we ARE those people! Protecting Our Waters has taken a human rights approach and has fought for a moratorium — in what you might call the “moratorium wing of the ban movement” — since being founded in 2009. Given Pennsylvania’s situation, where high-volume horizontal slickwater fracking began in 2004 and we didn’t exist til 2009 — we were scorned early on by some mainstream enviros for that relentless stance, but we’ve been supporting and celebrating every ban from Pittsburgh to Bulgaria, and working strategically to win, then expand the DRBC moratorium across the state and region. This blog has been used by activists around the world working to stop, slow, and ban fracking.

      Most of us have a gut-level revulsion at the phrases “best technology” (which just means “less deadly technology”) or worse, “best management practices” because the very sound of the words is so gratingly absurd, like “we had to kill everyone in the village, but we used best war practices.”
      However, when it comes to tactical considerations, as well as toxic personal attacks, let’s think carefully. It appears to be that nobody in Breathe Easy is “for” fracking or is saying that fracking could ever, even remotely, possibly be “safe.” Therefore it is not greenwashing in the same way that CSSD or EDF does active collusion with the industry, just as Sierra Club did, on a colossal, multi-million dollar scale. Both due to the richness and power of those institutions, and due to their active greenwashing, they MUST be called out.
      Publicly and often!

      Horizontal hostility: attacking “the little guy” out of frustration?

      Tactically and rhetorically — or you might say, politically and personally — there is a difference when it’s shalefield residents who are also activists, whose work and experience is being misrepresented in the press, as in the case of Roter and Donnan. It’s different, and valuable, to call out big rich nonprofits who are actively colluding with and benefiting from collusion with Big Fracking Gas. That is channeling political energy “vertically” towards those with money, power, and control.
      But with these particular individuals who have done so much to provide documentation for the moratorium and ban movements and who have also directly stood up to the industry, there is no corruption, but rather a set of survival choices and survival tactics AFTER and DURING being fracked; and it is important for us to put that out there publicly.
      Seen in that light, it becomes even more important to debunk and de-spin the mainstream press spin, which is not a one-time project but an ongoing priority since the industry is only chortling at the TEMPORARY, illusory, ephemeral “seeming success” of their divide and conquer tactics. It would make a lot of sense, for example, for Mary’s comment to be on AP discussion sites and letters to the editor where the general public looks, reminding them of the huge preponderance of moratorium and ban activists (most readers on this site are well aware of the strength of the movement to stop fracking). Since those hurtling blame and shame on Roter and Donnan can’t control the actions of others (although they can certainly alienate, hurt, deepen divisions, and drive some people out of the movement altogether or repulse others), maybe the best thing they can do is reflect actively on exactly how those divide and conquer tactics work, and reflect actively and urgently on whether their public words are helping, or hurting?

      Synergy Beats Fracturing

      One thing going on here that is very interesting is that some people, like Calvin Tilman, the former mayor of DISH, Texas, who are seen as movement heroes, are not attacked (for advocating “best practices”); but when a grassroots woman does the same thing, on behalf of and alongside her elderly neighbors down the street who’ve been getting nosebleeds, she is attacked nonstop, and viciously, by sister and brother activists. Calvin is outspoken, strong, charismatic, and ultimately suffered direct consequences in his family of living near compressor stations in Texas when his son experienced nosebleeds just like his neighbors had. None of these people attacking Rebecca Roter would dare attack Calvin, nor should they! Yet, he (usefully!) came all the way to the Delaware River Basin in 2010 and gave a GREAT presentation to DRBC about… guess what.. “best practices.” We were able to use the info. he presented to point out, and keep pointing out, that no best practices exist in PA; that we need to “study first,” and it was the COMBINATION of the “study first” argument; the “moratorium” argument; the advocacy over lack of regulations; and the ban movement, WORKING TOGETHER, which enabled us to win the moratorium in the Delaware River Basin.
      Synergy beats fracturing, when it comes to movement-building!
      (Yes, there are important differences in legal structure, population density, material resources and access to power that helped the DRBC moratorium become reality — this is just a tale of multiple tactics used successfully.)(And again YES, there are places to draw the line; but is attacking these few grassroots individuals really that place, or are people perhaps, mistakenly, believing too much of what they read in AP and responding, instead of with anger at AP, by attacking a monster which doesn’t exist — the monster of betrayal? Again, as Stephen Cleghorn pointed out immediately and publicly, there is no betrayal here!)
      What’s worked the most so far to stop fracking seems to be multiple tactics, with relentless, nonstop unpaid volunteer work to educate the general public directly about why fracking can’t be done safely; from grassroots lobbying to high-level lobbying; from demonstrations to direct action; from e-petitions to paper letters; from phone banking to more direct education, education, education about the impacts; from solidarity with already-impacted people to listening, really listening, to their experience. And all during that time people have ALSO advocated for highly specific policy decisions at the very same time: overturning Act 13; rescinding the permit to dump fracking waste in the Delaware River; rescinding Corbett’s order that Notices of Violation have to be delayed instead of issued in the field. Each of these “lesser” victories built the movement. Success in forcing the industry to use less deadly technology would also build the movement. It can’t be spun as if that makes it “safe” because millions of people know it’s not safe, and we won’t let that lie sit still for a minute!
      That’s why all this toxic attacking against a few grassroots residents of frontline communities who ARE experiencing nosebleeds, headaches, mouth ulcers and sore throats, dizziness, passing out, etc. — seems seriously out of line.
      If 100% of the energy expended on attacking a very few individuals were used for building and promoting resistance instead, we’d be ahead! These few people are not “capitulating,” they are adding tools to the toolbox. These few people have done a great deal for years to power and empower the moratorium and ban movements — Bob Donnan and Rebecca Roter, he with his blog(s) and photographs and solidarity with impacted people and commitment to fight back; she with her Roadblock last year, Constitution Pipeline resistance; years of work with impacted people, scientists, and more; Finan with his incredibly important documentation of toxic emissions with his FLIR camera; so much work that has never been compensated or barely thanked; so much taking for granted; now this is how we treat them?
      AP did not make any kind of effective case that multitudes of activists are “switching tactics”; it just wrote that headline so that Kevin Begos could feel important, essentially. Could y’all write a multitude of Letters to Editor and comments on the hundreds of outlets that ran Begos’ story, to re-frame and stand up for the moratorium and ban movements? (Frackdown is coming, take that, Begos!)

      Drop in the bucket of a big, strong movement

      Of course we’ve (POW) been doing everything we can, including — as a tiny non-funded grassroots organization without even a 501(c)3 [we have a fiscal sponsor] — organizing a couple of the largest anti-fracking demonstrations so far, Shale Gas Outrage 2011 and 2012; participating in direct action, getting people clean water to Butler County residents and now working on emergency water in several more counties; and getting Philadelphia City Council to pass half a dozen resolutions (favoring a DRB moratorium, overturning Act 13, favoring statewide moratorium, and setting the groundwork for a ban). But we’re just a drop in the bucket of a huge and growing movement! This movement is big and strong; it’s got room for people who live in the shalefields to press the industry as hard as they can to use less deadly, less toxic technology WHILE we are all pushing for moratoria and bans. These tactics can work well together — and the logical framework is: by analogy — let’s work on stopping the war WHILE SOME PEOPLE FOCUS very strongly on demanding an end to the use of depleted uranium.
      In an anti-war struggle, some people, like the tree-sitters in the Loyalsock State Forest, will put themselves intentionally in harms’ way, a level of intentional risk that few people have the courage for (though hundreds have blockaded in Balcombe, and there are those Polish farmers…there is more direct action than we know, and we have more power than we know!). In the anti-war context, others may push for treaties. Others may get medical supplies in to the affected communities. Others may demonstrate, others may take the press to task, but no. single. person. or. organization. can. do. it. all.
      Depleted uranium is a meaningful analogy because, by the way, depleted uranium IS being used right now, also, in the perf guns used in fracking, which is yet another reason to stop fracking now! Because I want to stop fracking now, would I go ballistic and attack someone who publicly presses for FRACKERS TO STOP USING DEPLETED URANIUM in their perf guns? No way! I would cheer! Because that would have a triple-positive effect: it a. exposes that DU is being used; it b. if successful, makes fracking harder and more expensive, slowing it down; c. may save life and health in this and future generations! It would HELP the moratorium and ban movements a lot because the public would be scratching their heads thinking, “wow, doesn’t that cause birth defects?” You bet it does. And “don’t we need clean water now and in the future?” You bet we do.

      However, with a diversion of energy in which a few folks are attacking the victims, adding distortions of their own to the distortions that were already published in AP (repeat after me: do not believe everything you read in AP stories. do not believe…) and adding salt to the wounds when the press distorts reality, it makes it harder for us to stand strong together and saying, “THIS is reality: we have a full-spectrum resistance, multiple tactics in a sophisticated, strong and growing movement to stop fracking!”

      Alternative analogy: Fight to stop depleted uranium use AND to stop the war

      There is no either-or. There is both-and. Shoot me dead if you ever hear Rebecca Roter say “I really want safe fracking to happen now!” — because there is no way that she could imagine “safe fracking” to exist anywhere; she knows too much!

      What Roter and a handful of shalefield residents are doing is not greenwashing, it is a survival tactic. And it is up to the rest of us to frame it as such.
      It is up to us to frame our own narrative of survival, defiance, and resistance, while building as strong and cohesive a community of care for impacted people as possible. Some of the very people being attacked by Wendy et al were busy getting clean drinking water to impacted people who are elderly, who are thrown under the bus in this firestorm of words. Care is resistance also.

      If people want to frack the movement to bits, that’s on you; we will not participate in or add to that, but rather uphold the reality that a couple dozen people in the state of Pennsylvania demanding less deadly technology is pretty much the same as people in Iraq, say, demanding an end to the use of depleted uranium. Would you attack those Iraqi residents as “not anti-war enough,” or would you welcome adding their voice to the harmony of major keys and minor keys in a swelling chorus?
      When CSSD uses “best technology” to greenwash, alongside Chevron, Shell and all of them, call them out! THAT is greenwashing! When EDF capitulates, that is greenwashing. When grassroots impacted residents advocate for less deadly technology because their neighbors are getting nosebleeds and throat ulcers and passing out in their own homes, it is a DIFFERENT TACTIC altogether; it’s called “self-defense,” and if the sound of the phrase “best technology” turns your stomach, just call it “less deadly technology” or LPT, “less poisonous technology.” Taken in context it is merely one tool, like a certain kind of screwdriver in a toolbox that already has hammers and drills and wrenches. People who advocate “harm reduction” strategies related to drug use are not pro-drug use, they are pro-health. The Breathe Easy folks have every right to advocate for their neighbors’ lives, and our ability to win moratoria and bans is our job.
      We can, and should, use the utter and complete absence of “best technology” to further push the moratorium movement ahead. Because we know this industry will NEVER us “best technology” and that even if it did, that would never be enough to protect water, air, climate, and living creatures, including humans and future generations.

      It is the people both in AP and in the movement who are distorting the meaning of this tool of resistance, who are causing harm and doing a disservice to activists and to impacted people everywhere — not the people who are picking up that screwdriver and trying to use it. There is NOTHING stopping millions of other people from continuing to press to stop fracking, because fracking is destroying air, water, communities, climate, health and sustainability!

      We Cannot Live Without Our Lives

      In any case, Coryn’s article was written specifically to debunk the distortions in the AP article, and if you happen to take a moment to look at the hundreds of our blog posts and our work over time, you’ll see that POW has been staunch and relentless in fighting to stop fracking. POW is currently an all-volunteer organization working to stop fracking AND working to save lives in the shalefields. Those two goals reinforce each other because, as Holly Near (I think) said, “we cannot live without our lives”!
      When Carl Stiles committed suicide in January 2012, we resolved to do everything in our power to protect people’s lives in the shalefields using every tool we have — that is what full-spectrum resistance really means; it means not ignoring the people whose lives are being hurt and shortened and sickened right now.

      AP has a huge staff of professional journalists and they are paid for their work; we take on the mainstream press all the time with no paid staff at all, as a project of the heart, as part of challenging the status quo. This particular piece written by volunteer Coryn Wolk did a good job, and so did Texas Sharon’s piece here:
      We are the insurgents!

      • October 14, 2013 9:54 am

        BESC has organized to deal with air quality issues. BESC as a group does not take an official position on drilling. BESC has people whose views span the full range of opinions on drilling. The realities of our community in Susq. Co. mean there is no general consensus on the harm or benefits of gas drilling. But there is consensus on breathing. This position will undoubtedly upset those who believe very strongly that working for anything less than a moratorium or ban is undeniably wrong and immoral. There are many approaches to our problems and sometimes we will not agree. I work with the assumption that all of us concerned about the effects of the drilling industry spend many hours thoughtfully considering our positions and I respect and thank you all for doing that.

      • Mary Sweeney permalink
        October 15, 2013 1:33 am

        Iris–I live in NY, in the Southern Tier–the area of the state most likely to become a fracking “sacrifice zone” should NY begin issuing permits. I am also a PA native, I have friends and relatives living in PA, and I am deeply concerned about the harm fracking has done, is doing, and may yet do to the residents and environment of PA.

        Like you, I do not believe that fracking could ever, even remotely, possibly be “safe.” And as someone who has spent a very considerable amount of volunteer time on the fracking issue over the last five years, I appreciate that Coryn Wolk does not have the resources available to an organization like the AP.

        However, whether we are volunteers or paid workers, I think we all have an obligation to do our best to get the facts straight before distributing them to a wider audience. And I think that Coryn Wolk’s article, as it stands, could give the wrong impression about Breathe Easy (aka Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, or BESC). Indeed, I assume that you’ve read the article, yet you have the wrong impression about BESC.

        You wrote: “It appears to be that nobody in Breathe Easy is ‘for’ fracking or is saying that fracking could ever, even remotely, possibly be ‘safe.'”

        But, as Spirito Di Verità’s comment explains: BESC has taken no official stand on drilling and the views of its members “span the full range of opinions on drilling.”

        Here is the mission statement and description of BESC taken from its own FaceBook Page (

        MISSION: “To protect regional air quality and health of communities in Susquehanna County, Pa from potentially harmful air emissions released through the processes of shale gas extraction ,production and transport.”

        STRATEGY:” We will promote respectful dialogue between the natural gas industry and our Susquehanna County community. Although our members are bipartisan, we are non-partisan. We will publicly advocate industry to keep their promise to act as good neighbors and partners through voluntary use of best technologies and processes for lowest possible air emissions at every stage of shale gas extraction beyond regulations. Achieving the lowest air emissions possible will help to keep our air healthy to breathe, which will help protect the health of everyone living and working in our community.”

        Given BESC’s stated mission and strategy, I am concerned (as I know some others are in PA and NY are) that BESC will (perhaps inadvertently) send a message to the general public that fracking for shale gas can be made acceptably safe through the use of so-called best technologies and processes. And really, how can BESC hope to officially counter such a message when BESC has very carefully NOT taken an official position against fracking or even for a moratorium to be put in place while the efficacy of the proposed best practices is studied?

        As long as BESC sends a mixed and confusing message about fracking, then I disagree that BESC is merely pursuing a different strategy toward the common goal of ending fracking. Yes, there may be (and probably are) some members in BESC who want to end fracking. But, BESC’s official line is silent on the issue of a ban and can certainly be read as an endorsement of so-called “safe” fracking. This being the case, I am concerned that BESC’s strategy may end up working AGAINST those of us who do not believe fracking could ever, even remotely, possibly be safe. This is why I think it is important for all of us to be clear on what BESC is saying and what BESC is not saying, and I do not think Wolk’s article is clear on this at all. I think that omitting the opinions of those anti-fracking activists who disagree with BESC’s approach is a serious omission–serious enough to mislead those who read the article.

      • wlee7 permalink
        October 15, 2013 6:41 am

        HI Mary Sweeney–

        Yes the point you make is exactly right–that fracking can be done safely is precisely the message they’re sending–and we can count on the industry to exploit this ti maximal effect in the interest of fracking MORE. Moreover we know–and THEY know–that the industry will continue to do it as cheaply, swiftly, and thoroughly as they possibly can to maximize their profits. And then they’ll leave the rest of us to clean up the mess. And we know–and THEY know–that “best practices and technologies” a la compressors is only ONE part of the process. Their’s is an invitation to more fracking–not less, more pollution–not less–more human suffering–not less, and more ecological destruction–not less. Perhaps their air will be a little cleaner for a little while–but even this is dubious.

        Kevein Begos may be a shill for the industry–but that doesn’t mean he got this wrong. He didn’t.

        A better motto for Breath Easily might be–at least for all the rest of us “Choke Violently.”

      • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
        October 21, 2013 3:38 pm

        First of all, as I write, the challenges are growing: Vera Scroggins has been attacked in court by Cabot Oil and Gas for her tours of impacted people in Susquehanna County; the water deliveries to Tammy Manning’s family and two other families in Susquehanna County have stopped, as you probably know; and there are all the other fronts we need to pay attention to, so this will be my last comment.

        Second of all, Bob Donnan has filed an ethics complaint against AP writer Kevin Begos. It is not for merely making stuff up in the recent AP story that stirred such a fuss in the movement — it is for something more nefarious. Texas Sharon wrote about it here: — Again, this is an ONGOING saga. So although this is my own last comment, the saga itself and the diverse forms of resistance, continue.

        Lastly, don’t miss this article about the folks Begos slandered: The Slippery Business of Fracking:

        That said, I wanted to address the last couple of comments.

        There is a reason we quoted Stephen Cleghorn’s response to the AP spin. Cleghorn stands for a moratorium, and has been one of the strongest — probably THE strongest — farmer-activists in the state on behalf of a statewide moratorium. He also stands firm for a ban — “a one-man ban if I have to,” he is famous for saying, meaning, in other words, that the industry would have to literally physically put him on the drill bit and drill him into the ground before he’d let them frack his land! That’s why Stephen Cleghorn is the person we quote, who responded earliest to the Begos problem by asserting that there is no broad sea change in this movement at all, that Begos has it wrong if he thinks he can cherry-pick, distort and generalize this way because what we have is, in Stephen Cleghorn’s words, “full-spectrum resistance.”

        If AP really wanted to do a story on a shift in tactics, Begos could have counted the steadily increasing number of direct actions, the growing number of tree-sits, lockdowns and blockades; along with the number of large, substantial victories (from the DRBC moratorium to the PA Dems’ weighing in favor of a moratorium, the Commonwealth Court overthrow of Act 13’s municipal rights pre-emption clause, the Phila moratorium resolutions, the Pittsburgh ban, the State College ban referendum, the phenomenal growth and strength and staying power and brilliance and effectiveness of the New York ban movement; and all the New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidates weighing in as pro-moratorium, just to name a few!). He could look at the 200 actions from the Global Frackdown; he could look at the 60% public opinion in PA in favor of a moratorium on fracking — not to mention Los Angeles City Council banning fracking! — and conclude that the larger shift in tactics is towards exactly what Cleghorn calls “full spectrum resistance.”

        Good people like Bob Donnan who spend years of their lives — years — of — their — lives — effectively, consistently and ferociously calling out the industry, photographing its damage, and doing solidarity with impacted people are part of our resistance, and we are proud to stand with them. Shame on AP for using past tense in its description of Donnan as a resister!

        Is the Breathe Easy language a lot softer than you or I could imagine ourselves writing? Sure it is! Is it also possible that the reason for that is not to cozy up to the industry, but to attract, energize, support and strengthen a new type of local activist who is otherwise too scared to step up? Are we one million percent sure that that is a bad thing? Obviously you are one million percent sure, but I can imagine other outcomes. For example, what if, in the context of our strong, growing moratorium and ban movement, groups like Breathe Easy were hugely successful in winning wide, broad, deep vocal, visible support for holding the industry’s feet to the fire to IMMEDIATELY stop their “good neighbor” BS rhetoric and instead ACT by installing enormously expensive equipment that should be required (but isn’t) at every stage of shale gas development — with thousands of miles of ink spilled in the press for the industry’s every failure to do so — might that not help the movement continually expose the fact that not only is fracking inherently dangerous, damaging and deadly, but this industry doesn’t even bother to invest in life-saving equipment in heavily populated, beautiful areas full of assertive citizen advocacy? Doesn’t that failure just underline the fact that this industry is poisonous and out of control? Might that tactic not help get the 60% who favor a moratorium in PA to jump up to 80% within a couple of years?

        I’m not suggesting that as a primary strategy — not at all — nor that it’s where I would put much energy, nor that I’m sure that it would work. I’m saying that it may be worth spending some time imagining what full-spectrum resistance actually looks like and imagining it working, actually working, to stop fracking by a combination of direct resistance, education, policy lobbying, legislative lobbying, pressure on the industry itself, press work, sharp rhetoric, creative messaging, and involving broader and broader segments of the general public in opposing shale gas extraction, processing, transport and use at every stage, every phase: stop fracking.

        As to “choke violently, Susquehanna County,” that was absolutely written like a curse, as if that is what you WANT to happen. But it is ALREADY happening — some folks in Susquehanna County are already being and have already been choked violently, as I keep pointing out relentlessly, and in my view the lack of expression of solidarity and compassion in some comments could only be written by folks who haven’t inhaled so much at frack pads, compressor stations and the like. Folks who haven’t directly assisted their own elderly neighbors who went unconscious, their other elderly neighbors with nosebleeds, their other neighbors with skin rashes, their own family with throat ulcers.

        If the industry wants to crow like a cocky (but confused) rooster who thinks it’s sunrise when it’s actually sunset, because somebody’s mission statement talks about them using best technology, let them. They are wrong. So is AP. Beyond wrong.

        As a self-defense instructor who has taught approximately 10,000 students from all walks of life over fifteen years, one thing I know is that “what works” is different in different contexts and situations and varies also according to the strengths and life experience of the different defenders. Also, it is literally statistically true that those who use three or more DIFFERENT tactics as part of their resistance, (such as stalling/distraction, verbal resistance, AND physical resistance) have the best chance of not being raped. The absolutely brilliant woman who, confronted with a violent rapist inside her home, whispered “shhh, you’ll wake the baby! shhh, you’ll wake the baby!” while gently guiding the attacker back out the door, then slams the door and calls police — wow! Who would have ever thought of that? But that’s what she did, and it worked. Should we scream at her if we saw her personal mission statement exposed to the public view: “I pledge to protect myself and my neighbors, to the best of my ability, using whatever resources are available to me in the moment, against life-threatening attack”? No, we praise her for being brilliant, creative and effective! Did her personal mission statement not go far enough towards stopping rape everywhere all the time? I myself, in response to the mass rapes in Bosnia, and mass rapes at the same time in Haiti and elsewhere, founded GATHER — Global Action to Help End Rape — you would love that mission statement, and you would love what we accomplished. But does that mean I’m going to scream at someone who “only” defends herself, and uses, at times, (not always!) gentle language and gentle tactics to do so? No way. There is room on the spectrum of action for you and for me, a more in-your-face approach, and also for that incredibly brilliant woman who used her instincts in the moment based on what she — the expert in her own situation — believed might work. And it did. Each of us is ultimately the expert in our own situation, when we are under attack. And the folks in Susquehanna County are certainly under attack.

        Dear friends, there are hundreds, and probably thousands, of grassroots organizations in shale country which do things like water monitoring, air monitoring, policy work, legislative work and education, which we would love to see come out for a moratorium / ban on fracking, and which we know will not do that overtly, whether because of their political leanings, their geographic location, their funding base, or their tactical and strategic choices. Take Calvin Tillman et al and ShaleTest for example: — Do we need these organizations? Yes we do! Do we have control over the wording of everybody’s mission statement? Nope. So why is one teeny tiny grassroots organization being singled out for repetitive attack? Is it just because AP highlighted them? Is it because it is founded by a woman? What? I continue to believe that women grassroots activists who stick their necks out get their heads cut off, and that we have already created an atmosphere of toxic intimidation in general for grassroots women activists. I continue to believe that is unwise. Because when you cut someone’s head off, you may need that very same head the next week, and it might not be there any more. People like Rebecca have powered the movement behind the scenes for years and have vital knowledge about, and carry out many crucial acts of direct assistance for, many impacted people. She might be just the person you might want to call to invite someone from Susquehanna County to describe the impacts on them at your next forum. She also has stated publicly on the Breathe Easy website that she is for a moratorium and a ban. Let’s work even harder at not being confused about where hostility — real hostility — should be directed: how about directing real overt hostility towards those who are doing the poisoning?

        I say let’s get busy and move our attention away from delivering toxic attacks against underdogs (leave that to the industry; they already specialize in that particular activity, as the lawsuit against Vera, the attack on Bob Donnan’s land, the silencing of Stephanie Hallowich and literally a million other acts attest) and put our attention back where it belongs: confront manipulative double standards in the mainstream press, cover the amazing and awesome developments in our own movement, from Balcombe to Bulgaria, in our own way; get to know each other better (were you on the barricades with Rebecca last year, were you cheering her on when she was blocking trucks? Have you been reading Bob Donnan’s blog for years? Have you read it now? There are over 2000 photographs here: — and if you really want to protect Susquehanna County I know Vera Scroggins could use extra solidarity right now!) and get busy cause we have an awful lot of fracking to stop! We may be divided, but we are not conquered; the more energy we divert into “horizontal hostility,” however, the closer the industry’s dream of divide and conquer approaches. One tiny grassroots group pressuring the industry to walk its talk — its fracking “good neighbor” BS talk, that is — cannot possibly cause a huge, diverse, strong and resilient movement to fail. We are on the rising tide.

  15. October 12, 2013 9:45 pm

    This is exactly the folly of agreeing to “work with the industry” to promote safer, or cleaner, or less noisy, or less invasive etc., etc, ! The collective industrial juggernaut will not only make mere token efforts to appease you, they will utilize your shift of tactics to alienate and divide the movement, discredit you and your prior activism, (and all of ours!), and publish a blitzkrieg of bulletins in the media exposing environmentalists concerns as now “Proven to be unfounded” . The damage to the gains we have made and would have continued to make, will expose thousands, perhaps millions of innocent people living above the shale all over the world to exactly the same atrocities that you have faced so bravely in Susq. Co. ! This will enable the progression of new extraction projects in deeper shales, mass infrastructure build-outs and more rapid deployment of export means. That alone would be rational reason enough to rethink. and retreat from, this ill-advised and desperate decision! Add to it the indisputable fact that another inescapable consequence will be ever more delays in the conversion we Must make to renewables and the immediate need for mitigation of Climate Change, and the case is closed in my view. Breathe Easy Must renounce any deals with Range., Cabot, and any other entity that promotes this profit driven insanity! We must close our ranks, heal our wounds and continue to be Team Players under one very steady and unwavering banner. NO FRACKING-NO COMPROMISE!


  1. Kevin Bogus Wins Fracking Fiction Award !

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