Ban v. Moratorium: What Pennsylvania Fractivists Want

TELL THE PA DEMS – Stop Fracking, Start Using Common Sense

Political actions are monumental labors, but when they strike the right chord, they’re anything but laborious. They unite the grassroots, attract support from big greens and inspire new voices. Successful actions activate the rusty apparatus of democracy, and they tend to take on a life of their own.


Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee Meeting 


Saturday, June 15th in Lancaster, Pa.

PLUS A Week of Anti-Fracking Actions!   June 3rd – June 8th

In step with Stop The Frack Attack’s National Week of ActionTell The PA Dems “STOP FRACKING NOW!”  will include a week of local lobbying and recruiting efforts, and culminate in strong, united representation at the next State Democratic Committee policy meeting on June 15, 2013. Here’s why the action was created (from the Event Description):

A member offered a resolution calling for a moratorium on fracking at their last meeting. The resolution never made it to the floor. A revised version will be offered this time and we think it deserves a floor vote. 

Senator Jim Ferlo is introducing a moratorium bill. Berks Gas Truth helped deliver over 100,000 signatures calling for a moratorium to the Governor’s office on April 30th. It’s clearly time, actually way past time, for a moratorium, so why do the PA Dems hang onto the severance tax/regulation stance that is as outmoded as fossil fuels?

The party sets the platform on which candidates run. We can’t go into the 2014 campaign with our only alternative to Corbett a string of candidates who are still willing to give Pennsylvania to the drillers, as long as they pay a little in the process. We deserve better than that! Our natural resources deserve better. Our state constitution says so! Now it’s time for the Democratic Party to chime in and throw their support behind a moratorium.

For time and location, plus updates on accompanying actions, please visit the event on Facbook:  Tell the PA Dems, “STOP FRACKING NOW!

The brainchild of Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, Tell The PA Dems is being coordinated by several anti-fracking grassroots leaders. The action’s title was openly debated and intentionally worded to be inclusive.

If there’s a lowest common denominator in Pennsylvania’s fight against shale gas pollution, it’s the call for a moratorium on new drilling permits until the state studies the health impacts. In his great gas giveaway, Governor Tom Corbett has spent $0 – not one red cent – to research the health, economic or environmental impacts, a fact at least 100,000 Pennsylvanians find unacceptable. The most progressive goal is an outright ban. Hydro-fracking is a form of extreme fossil fuel extraction which is not, and cannot be, accomplished safely so we must demand renewables right now. My hunch is most environmental activists in Pennsylvania fall somewhere in between.

In a comment on the event page, Alex Lotorto, Stop The Tennessee Pipeline, writes:  “I’m just wary of forfeiting our talking points to people who want a moratorium until there’s ‘safe drilling.’ I don’t even know why the concept of a ‘moratorium’ is even accepted by grassroots people. It was originally suggested by Harrisburg insiders and Big Green nonprofits who are too compromised to push for a ban. Now, we’re bolstering their weak set of demands by mobilizing our grassroots into their corner, which is like a baseball team resigning a season to reaching a .500 record instead of playing to win the World Series.

Lotorto elaborates:  “… There’s a serious disconnect between people doing legislative work and people who are organizing in the shalefields to do direct action/find aid and support for impacted families. A moratorium is not what I’m looking for… I would never, ever, risk arrest in a direct action with ‘moratorium now’ as my message.

Karen Feridun respectfully disagrees, referring to the pivotal 2011 “Save The Delaware” protest in Trenton, NJ:  “I’ve struggled with the same thing myself, but Trenton was what made me think a bit differently. I could have been there with 50 people calling for a ban, but was there with thousands and got to keep the moratorium. I find the untenable position the one that calls for a severance tax and regulation, so I’m more than willing to see the party call for a moratorium.

Yet Lotorto argues convincingly for a ban:  “I’m not sure if it would have made a difference if the message of the DRBC rally was ‘ban it’ vs ‘moratorium.’ I’m tired of hearing ‘do more studies!’ ‘regulate more!’ and ‘make it safe!’ as the rallying cry coming from down state moratorium groups, which is really disrespectful of people who live in the shale who would live in jeopardy throughout the couples years of a moratorium and then suffer a great deal once it’s lifted… We need to present a serious, comprehensive platform for our movement that includes a BAN on fracking and solutions for rural economies.

Cloudy Scribbler interjects, informatively:  “Actually the ‘two tier’ strategy often came about by noncoordinated struggles rather than self-conscious hardcop/softcop politics. the Democrats and Republicans are a hardcop softcop routine and it works pretty well — for THEIR friends

Feridun replies:  “… I’m always clear that I support a ban and only support a moratorium, not until it’s safe, but rather with the condition that they must prove it can be done safely. Big difference. I say that they’ll never prove it can be done safely because it can’t be done safely. I talk about the precautionary principle turned on its head. Unless we have absolute consensus that some is dangerous, it’s not? No. The burden of proof is on those who stand to profit and, if they can’t make their case, then the only choice is to disallow it.  

“I’m in the grassroots in SEPA and don’t see the issue as you do, Alex. I’m in a part of the state that is now facing pipelines, natural gas power plants, and more, yet I still meet people who have never heard of fracking. I have found it incredibly effective to introduce people to the opposition by allowing them to ease into it. Many, many people here now support a ban who were squeamish to even support a moratorium a couple of years ago. I’m far less swayed by what the Big Greens say than by what the people here on the ground are thinking. It’s a horror in much of the state, no question, so I completely respect those who can’t support the action at the PA Dems.

A compromise is quickly found, with all in favor of consistent messaging. A round of “hurrays!” and a new action is named: STOP FRACKING NOW!

Much as the Natural Gas Industry might like to find friction among fracking activists, particularly between the local grassroots and big greens who are more recent to the fray, I see a prevailing spirit of genuine consensus-building. Whether you’re pro-moratorium or you demand a ban, everyone agrees that, currently in Pennsylvania, shale gas production is not being done safely . The evidence has been piling up and, in the end, The Precautionary Principle unites every manner of fracking opposition.

My not-so-secret wish is that a moratorium will lead to a permanent ban. As yet, no one has determined what to do about the legacy of fresh water pollution awaiting future generations when the tens of thousand of cement and steel wellbore casings deteriorate. How do industry leaders and complicit politicians intend to remediate such a colossal fail? Is it even possible?

As Karen so aptly stated, “They’ll never prove it can be done safely because it can’t be done safely.”

A moratorium not only allows time for science, it affords concerned citizens much needed time to put legislators and business leaders on record, and for politicians to develop sound public policy. It gives democracy a fighting chance. Whether we live amidst the rural-industrial gas drilling sprawl, or we’re urban progressives in a post-NIMBY era, we all want greater say and more sunshine.



In case you can’t be in Lancaster on June 15th, future actions are always being planned. Marcellus Shale Protest and Protecting Our Waters keep detailed calendars, and Clean Water Action PA is always taking Action!


JUNE 18th in Harrisburg

Tell Us Your Problems with the PA DEP!

On June 18th, Clean Water Action and GASLAND II‘s Josh Fox will march to the DEP to demand ACTION on Your Problem! But we can do this only if you tell us what it is. Go to this website to leave your information: and report your DEP Story.



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