Sabrina Artel | Alternet
The rally demanded that Congress take immediate action to protect our health and our water from the harmful effects of hydro-fracturing for gas and oil.
People traveled by plane, car, bus, bicycle, and on foot from across the United States and the world to Washington, DC on Saturday, July 28 for the 2012 Stop the Frack Attack Rally. The rally demanded that Congress take immediate action to protect public health and water from the now EPA-documented harmful effects of hydro-fracturing for gas and oil.
Sponsored by 136 local and national organizations, citizens already impacted by fracking in their communities united with those under imminent threat to create this declaration of protest. In the three days leading up to the rally, leaders were lobbying and educating elected officials while others led workshops on organizing against the escalating abuses of the fossil fuel industry. In addition to demanding an end to fracking, an emphasis was directed toward a green energy future.
Maria Pena of Long Eddy, New York said, “I’m here because I want to stop the environmental terrorism that fracking will cause.” Deanna Petula, a mother from Carlyle, Pennsylvania added, “I’m very upset about what’s happening. It’s awful. As a mother of three young children I’m concerned with their future. How will I explain this, what we let happen to our state 20 years from now, leasing state forests, water withdrawals from the Susquehanna River where we live downstream from it and depend on that water?”
Millie Cassese, a court reporter in New York City and a mother who has roots in upstate New York said, “I became concerned four years ago. I’m concerned about water, air, my environment and the way of life that we have. I think what’s happening with big oil and gas here is happening all over the country. Big money and the corporations are taking over. We need a grassroots effort to stand up and make these voices heard. If we don’t we’ll be in trouble and so will our kids. The whole country is being taken over by money. We have no power, except ourselves, going in a bus and being united. This is an opportunity for everyday people to come together; the whole country should be waking up to what’s happening. So many people don’t know what this will do to their lives. As a court reporter for 32 years I have been in the middle of corporate litigation and have seen what the corporations have gotten away with and how much the country has changed in the last 30 years.”
The rally started at 2pm on Saturday on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Rally speakers included Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of Dish, Texas; Doug Shields, former Pittsburgh council member; Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Josh Fox, director of the documentary Gasland; Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, and numerous other community leaders and residents of states affected by fracking.
Bill McKibben said, “As this summer proves, between drought and wildfire and heat wave we’ve got to keep carbon in the ground. There’s too much up there already so we can’t be fracking for more or drilling or mining for more. Our job is to keep it underground. We’ve got to take our real swing now.”
Tim Ruggiero, who now lives in Pilot Point, Texas, introduced himself as formerly of Decatur, Texas where he had to leave because of drilling in the Barnett Shale. He traveled to the rally with the former mayor of Dish, Texas, Calvin Tillman, who was also forced to flee his home and constituency because of the dangers to his family living in close proximity to drilling.
Ruggiero said, “I’m here with former Mayor Calvin Tillman, we’re representing shaletest.org, a non-profit set up to help as many people as we can to provide baseline water testing for people that have been negatively impacted to test their water and their air for the people who are not financially able to afford such testing.” Ruggiero continued, “All I can share with you now is that my family and I are victims of the shale and we were fortunate enough to be able to get off the shale, but I’m here because there are hundreds, if not thousands of other people that are trapped by shale gas drilling.”
When I brought up water issues, he said, “We need to have an abundance of caution when it comes to our fresh water. It’s not an unlimited supply and we’re going through it faster than it can be replenished … we as a species, including Mother Earth are going to be in some serious trouble… If industry isn’t contaminating ground water, you’re trying to tell me that it’s providing drinking water [water buffaloes] out for people out of the generosity of your heart or do you have a vested interest in not exposing the dangers that are actually in the water that you the industry are actually creating and putting in there?”
Chip Desimone of Damascus, Pennsylvania said to me, “It’s a direct threat to the water, property values and my health. I’m so upset, as a veteran of Vietnam; it feels like we’re fighting another war.”
Jill Wiener, of the Delaware River Basin in upstate New York and an organizer with Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy who was on the advisory committee for the Stop the Frack Attack Rally, chanted over the roar of the crowd, “Do we want clean energy now? Yes! Clean air now? Yes! Clean water now? Yes! That is solidarity and that is what we have with our friends across the shale. These connections that we’ve made mean that when Texas calls us we will answer, when Oklahoma calls we will answer, when Wyoming calls, we will answer and when New York calls they will answer and we have to stand together!”
Drew Hutton, from Queensland, Australia is the president of the Lock the Gate Alliance, the Australian umbrella organization for all of the community-based groups opposed to fracking in Australia. He informs me that the mission of the movement is “the refusal by land owners to negotiate any kind of access to their land by mining companies. It’s a dire situation back home. We’ve got farmers, some of the most conservative people lining up at blockades, getting arrested and refusing access to their land despite the fact that the law says that they have to.” According to Hutton, up to 20,000 landowners have refused to permit access to industry with their rapidly growing national movement. In response to why the Australian organization was participating in the rally Hutton said, “It’s often the same companies and we learned from you what not to do.” The direct action tactics have been very effective. “If they [the mining companies] can’t get on the land, they can’t drill for gas, if they can’t drill for gas they can’t meet their contract, their projects fall over. We’ve already seen one of the biggest ones fall over, backed by Shell and Petro China, they announced [July 27] that they aren’t going ahead with investment.”
Josh Fox, the director of the documentary film Gasland joined us and said about the significance of being at the Capitol, “The oil and gas industry are treating governments as if they are subsidiary wings of their corporations. We often think of the government as the highest power but actually at this moment the government is just underneath where the oil and gas world is and are just an expense. You can funnel $747 million to get an exemption to a single law, three-quarters of a billion dollars spent on the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption. That’s not democracy anymore. That’s the government as a subsidiary of oil and gas. That’s what we’re trying to fight against and a lot of people in Congress know it.”