Fracking protest calls for industry ban

By Betsey Piette, Pittsburgh
Published Nov 12, 2010

Chanting “No fracking way!” while marching behind a giant banner that read “We can’t drink money,” more than 500 anti-fracking activists rallied in Pittsburgh Nov. 3 as part of the first World Protest Against Shale Gas Fracking. Demonstrations were also scheduled for Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Little Rock, Ark.; Dallas; and as far away as New Zealand.

Pittsburgh march hits energy companies' pollution.
Pittsburgh march hits energy companies’ pollution. Photo: Kelly Valdez

Another rally on Nov. 4 targeted the dumping of untreated wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling into the Monongahela River, the source of drinking water for 350,000 people in the Pittsburgh area.

Activists came from cities and towns across Pennsylvania as well as New York and West Virginia, where rapidly expanding horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale is disrupting communities, threatening the environment and harming residents’ health. The rally was endorsed by more than four dozen groups and individuals.

Following a march across the Rachel Carson Bridge, protesters gathered outside the David Lawrence Convention Center. Inside, leaders of the gas industry had gathered for the Developing Unconventional Gas conference. It featured Karl Rove speaking on the impact of the mid-term elections.

Rove told delegates that the Republican takeovers in the state and U.S. Congress would put an end to legislative threats against the industry, saying a new Republican House of Representatives “supportive of the energy industry ‘sure as heck’ would not pass climate-change legislation.” Rove went so far as to brag, “Climate is gone.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 4)

Since September the gas industry has spent more than $500,000 to back mainly Republican candidates in the Pennsylvania elections. On top of that hundreds of thousands of dollars were shelled out by drilling lobbyists to influence the outcome of state legislation on new taxes and regulations on the gas industry. Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett, who pledged not to levy any tax against the Marcellus Shale drillers, received more than $1 million in gas industry contributions.

Signs carried by protesters reflected their growing anger against the industry. One read “Careless, greedy drillers — Go frack yourselves.”

Students from the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition, with members from the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne University, wore T-shirts reading “546 toxic chemicals” and carried tombstone-shaped signs reading “R.I.P.” followed by names of rivers and lakes damaged by drilling spills.

No more ‘environmental prisoners’

Briget Shields, who co-chaired the rally, opened by saying, “We don’t want a moratorium. We want a complete ban to stop it altogether.” Her spouse, Pittsburgh City Council member Doug Shields, raised the prospect that Pittsburgh could become the first city in the U.S. to pass a ban.

Josh Fox, producer of the documentary “Gasland,” described fracking as “an industrial invasion that is pushing people out of their homes in 38 states. Not far from here people are environmental prisoners in their own homes, surrounded by an industry they do not want, their children getting sick, getting sick themselves, but unable to sell their homes.

“The big lie is that natural gas is better for the climate than coal or oil. It’s not ‘America’s energy independence,’” said Fox, borrowing an oft-repeated industry phrase. “It’s more dependence on T. Boone Pickens” — the corporate raider.

Fox ended by dialing Corbett’s office and holding out his cell phone to let the newly elected governor know exactly how the crowd felt about drilling in their state.

Singer Mike Stout, who entertained the rally with “Not going to stop these drillers in the ballot box — going to stop them in the streets,” drew cheers and raised fists from the crowd.

Speaking for the Shadbush Collective, a young woman named Radio told the gathering, “The industry parades themselves as ‘green,’ but the only thing they care about is the green in their trust funds. Here we are again confronting the same robber barons.

“Appalachia suffered under King Coal. Next it was oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The industry’s motive is profit. Drilling means more money for the bosses, and they don’t care that it means suffering for us.

“It’s really a systemic problem,” said Radio. “We need to shut this capitalist circus down!”

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