November 13, 2013

Students Witness the Fracking Frontlines

Crossposted on NRDC's Switchboard.

Last Friday night I went to the supermarket to buy several five gallon jugs of water. Being a longtime environmental advocate, it felt wrong to be buying bottled water.  But more than that, it felt strange to be buying water to meet the drinking needs of fellow Americans. Many assume that in the wealthiest country in the world, everyone has access to all of the potable water they could ever need. But that’s not necessarily true for many people living in shale country. The next day, I and 30 New York college students would be visiting Pennsylvania to see how fracking is threatening American communities and, more immediately, to deliver clean drinking water to people that have been living without it for some time.


Years of activism, letter writing, lobbying and movement building have enabled New Yorkers to keep fracking out of our state while an environmental and health review proceeds, but many of our neighbors have not been so lucky. Just over the border in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, fracking has industrialized the landscape and has pit neighbor against neighbor as the gas industry has pillaged communities.

This past weekend, NRDC and our friends from Catskill Mountainkeeper and NYPIRG brought students from SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Binghamton to witness firsthand the devastation that fracking has caused in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  For several hours, we toured various sites throughout Dimock, Franklin Forks and Montrose, where the industry has disregarded peoples’ right to clean water and air.


Students were guided by our friends, Craig Stevens and Vera Scroggins, two heroes in the fight against fracking.  They saw compressor stations and fracking pads, and were able to speak directly with folks whose water has been contaminated.  While dropping water off at peoples’ homes, it was striking to see a fracking pad nearby.228

226 At one point as we drove through Montrose, we passed an accident that had snarled traffic on a local road. Immediately after the accident site were dozens of trucks waiting to deliver the chemicals that are used in the fracking process.  It drove home the point further that these small towns have been totally industrialized by fracking.

We brought these students to the fracking frontlines in Pennsylvania not simply for show and tell. Because they cannot effectively advocate against something they have never seen, we are showing them what they’re up against, and what they need to fight.  We also are working with a host of allies to build youth interest and support for renewables, so that we can break our addiction to all fossil fuels immediately. It’s clear that without these alternatives, we will be stuck in a natural gas-induced coma for the unforeseeable future. Now that these students have seen the destruction caused by fracking with their own eyes, they are better equipped to help their communities fight it.


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