Grandparents “Rock to Block” Fracking Wells Near Schools with Rocking Chair Blockade

Older Generation Stands Up to Protect School Children

Middlesex Township, Butler, PA – A group of grandparents and seniors shut down an unconventional natural gas drilling (fracking) site near the Mars Area School District with a “rock to block” rocking chair blockade on Monday, December 21. Rex Energy is currently drilling unconventional horizontal hydraulic fracturing gas wells (“fracking”) on the Geyer well pad.  The well pad will contain a controversial cluster of wells located about a half mile away from 3,200 students at the Mars Area School District campus.  Gas wells and related infrastructure such as processing plants, compressor stations and pipelines emit harmful air pollution, and have the potential to cause water pollution and safety risks. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. There is also a real safety risk due to accidental explosions and fires.

The group blocked the entrance to the Geyer well pad site because it is the only recourse left to protect the children of the Mars Area School District, as well as all children put at risk when gas wells and infrastructure are placed nearby schools. This blockade is a stand against the gas industry’s reckless rush to frack in pursuit of profits over the health and safety of the children nearby and against politicians who have persistently failed in their duty to act in the public interest over special interests.

Michael Bagdes-Canning, a Butler County grandparent of three, stated, “Since neither the government officials, Rex and others in the industry, or lease holders will act to defend the health and welfare of our communities, our grandchildren, and future generations, we decided to stand up for them by sitting down (in the rocking chairs).”

Laurel Colonello, a Middlesex Twp. grandparent, stated  “It is not ok that this toxic industry has moved into our community.  The gas industry and local officials have consistently chosen wealth over the health and safety of our community, especially our children.”

Rex Energy called the Adams and Middlesex township police demanding that the grandparents be arrested and removed. Police refused to arrest anyone because there was no no-trespassing sign at the gate. Rex energy shut down operations for the day, installed a brand new no trespassing sign (but on the side that we were looking at it didn’t say anything) and went home. The rocking chair blockade stayed up a few hours and when it was clear Rex wasn’t coming back the grandparents packed up.

The grannies see “rock to block” as a Holiday gift to all children who will be exposed to the health and safety risks inherent in fracking and who in turn will pass on a tainted land and degraded environment to their own children.  The group of rockers believe we are all stewards of the environment; to quote an old Native American saying expresses, We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

If Rex restarts operations at the Geyer well they can expect to hear from some angry grandparents who are hell bent on protecting their grandchildren.


Background on the Geyer Well

The ongoing struggle to prevent the drilling has escalated from a successful fight by parents to prevent the MASD School Board from leasing the school campus property to Rex Energy, to an unsuccessful legal challenge of a township zoning ordinance change that allows for wells and related facilities to be located in over 90% of the township. The decision was appealed by the plaintiffs in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas and the plaintiffs were granted a temporary injunction on further work while the ruling was pending.  On November 20th, the Court rendered its decision upholding the decision of the Middlesex zoning hearing board and allowing the well to proceed.  Although the plaintiffs are expected to appeal, Rex was poised to commence drilling near the schools and immediately resumed their drilling operations.


Although the struggle by the Mars Parent Group in Middlesex Township has attained a higher profile, it is not the only situation where school children are endangered by the reckless pursuit of fracked gas.

Read at Learn More on the Protect Our Children website (

Read about the struggle of the Mars Parent Group to protect their children from the risks and known health impacts of natural gas development

A SLAPP suit by a group of leaseholders against a group of citizens challenging a Middlesex zoning ordinance permitting gas operations in most of the township is ongoing.

Read the latest 2015 PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center report “Dangerous and Close” revealing the proximity of fracking operations and the associated infrastructure to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents – children, seniors, and the sick. The report shows that there are 166 schools and 165 childcare providers within once mile of a permitted fracking well site.

Refer to The Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.  The study citation database maintained by PSE Healthy Energy shows that over half of the available studies on the adverse impacts of shale and tight gas development have been published since January 2014. In 2014, 192 peer-reviewed studies on these impacts were published. In the first six months of 2015, 103 studies appeared. The vast majority of these studies reveal problems. Specifically, as demonstrated by PSE’s statistical analysis, 84 percent of original research studies on human health risks found signs of harm or indication of potential harm.

Written by patrick