Anti-Fracking Conference Draws Hundreds Despite Epic Flooding In Philadelphia

Wake The Village! Again

This morning, I sat in traffic for nearly three hours. Record flooding, mudslides and downed trees blocked the way of nearly every commuter in the region. It was a nightmare. I was late for the Freedom from Fracking Conference in Center City, and I was ticked. I arrived just in time to catch hydrogeologist Paul Rubin’s workshop, Our Aquifers, Our Drinking Water: Casualties of Gas Development

I grabbed a seat in the packed room and tried to settle in quietly, only to find I’d forgotten a pen. Sigh. I hemmed a bit, then finally asked the woman next to me for one and promised not to steal it. I was still frazzled by my traffic odyssey, and a little beset by the fact that Climate Change – we had over three inches of rain last night – was probably the reason I was late for a conference about Stopping Another Dirty Fossil Fuel. Hell, there were even ads touting natural gas taunting me between KYW traffic reports.

I soon learned, as the workshop progressed, that the nice lady next to me was from Dimock, PA. Her water well had been polluted by hydraulic fracturing. I got a grip (literally, on her pen) and thought, now that totally sucks.

Paul Rubin will tell you, as a hydrogeologist, we have no business hydraulic fracturing for gas in the Marcellus Shale. He will assert that there is no cement technology available today that will protect our aquifer over the million or so years it has left in its natural lifespan. The best well-bore cement sealant technology will last 100 years, at best, though probably less. So, if you do the math, gas drillers would have to replug and reseal each well bore 10,000 times to ensure that fracking is indeed safe for the future of our water supply. Oh, and he also wants you know that it’s especially ill-advised to drill in a seismically active zone (such as Pennsylvania) since natural fractures and fissures in the shale are likely to shift and shear apart even the most advanced well bore seals. Basically, if we keep letting gas drillers do what they’re doing, even in the best case scenario, our water will be irreversibly polluted.

Occasionally, I hear someone ask in despair, “How can this be allowed?” I wonder about this all the time. How can it be that a single industry is permitted to deforest our environment, pollute our water and air, and endanger our communal well-being? Why is Pennsylvania’s legislature in such a mad dash to risk it all for what is, comparatively, a petty, short-term gain? Even the jobs are short-term, relatively speaking. Why are Americans, and Pennsylvanians in particular, so unwilling to acknowledge the long-term, steep and filthy price we – and future generations – will ultimately have to pay?

And, meanwhile, we could power it all with solar, wind and water.

What Madness?
Yesterday, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, gas drillers were laughing, insisting (still) that they are not responsible for a single case of groundwater contamination. Today, I’m sitting next to a woman with a pen but no water.

Yesterday, over 1,500 people joined in the largest anti-fracking rally in the United States to date, marching and calling for Tom Corbett’s arrest. I’d settle for his impeachment but, hey, I tend to be a Moderate.

Today, several hundred activists from across the state attended the Freedom From Fracking Conference. The sheer intellectual energy being poured into working this serious problem was palpable. Information was flowing, and facts were shared freely. And the truth was meticulously chronicled. So let the drillers laugh, and let the Republican legislators insist that renewables will exist only in fantasy land. Let them act like shale gas is a gift from god, and water isn’t. Compelling evidence is rapidly mounting. Solid strategies are forming. Public opinion is bound to be swayed. There’s much work to be done, but it’s finally okay to have a little faith in reason. They can’t get away with this much longer.

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