On a chilly autumn weekend, members of several environmental groups came to the shalefields of Montrose, Pennsylvania to learn more about the process of drilling and “fracking” for shale gas and to explore the region to discover what sacrifices are being made to make way for this extreme energy extraction. They joined Energy Justice: Shale Initiative (EJSI) and the Sierra Club to tour shale gas infrastructure, hike through Salt Springs State Park (a portion of which is leased to the shale gas industry), and gather around the campfire to sing songs, tell stories, and collaborate on new ways to halt fracking indefinitely through state-wide moratoriums and bans.
The tour included visiting impacted residents such as Ray Kemble and Tammy Manning, both of whom have had their well water contaminated by the process of fracking, which includes pre-production, the drilling of the actual gas wells, the hydraulic fracturing stage, and everything that comes after in terms of “remediation” and post-production like flowback wastewater. Ray, Tammy, and others, such as Craig Stevens (pictured below), who is renting his farmhouse to the folks of EJSI, have been fighting this fight for over 6 years. They’ve been delivering water to other residents who’ve been impacted, going to hearings at Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and speaking out in their community to anyone who will listen. Unfortunately, the influence of the shale gas industry is such that many are turning their heads and choosing to remain silent on the issue.
Also on the tour was the infamous Vera Scroggins, a close friend of mine and the whole team at Energy Justice Summer (now “Shale Initiative”), who led a tour that included visiting Ray and Tammy, viewing an active drilling rig (pictured below), and viewing other infrastructure like a compressor station in Franklin Forks, PA, pipeline right-of-ways, and a site that is currently in the beginning stages of being built (pictured below). Vera gives these free tours on a weekly––sometimes daily––basis with donations accepted. She is currently in a court case with Cabot Oil & Gas, the largest gas company in the surrounding region. Cabot has over 850 violations and yet they are choosing to pick on a grandmother with a camera who only wants to show what is truly happening to the earth and the community, both of which are being fractured by the gas industry. Cabot has an injunction against Vera that prohibits her from being within 100 feet of one of their access roads (read more about that here). Still, Vera continues to expose the industry for the harms they are causing because she wants her children and grandchildren to thrive in this world.
Robert Gardner and Adam Hasz were the masterminds behind the planning and execution of this outing and the cooking was done by the always-amazing Maria Langholz.
This outing was an important reminder that big green environmental organizations like the Sierra Club can effectively work together with grassroots organizations to strategize next steps and ways to move forward to fight for the planet and for its future inhabitants.
EJSI is looking forward to further collaboration on these projects and is willing to host environmental groups for similar outings. EJSI is also looking for fellows to come live in the shalefields to do research and other projects on the gas industry and their destructive practices.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more photos: see the full album here
Groups represented at the Outing included:
-Pennsylvania Sierra Club
-Interfaith Power & Light
-Clean Air Council
-Shalefield Organizing Committee
-Lehigh Valley Sierra Club
-Moshannon Sierra Club
-National Sierra Club
-Mountain Watershed Association
-The Sierra Student Coalition
-The Nature Conservancy
-D.C. Sierra Club
-Berks County Gas Truth
-Clean Water Action
-D.C. Action Lab
-Marcellus Patriots for Land Rights
-Marcellus Shale Earth First!
-Shalefield Justice Spring Break
-Moratorium Now! Campaign