At around 12:30pm, 10 protesters began a sit-in at the Allegheny County Courthouse, blocking the main hallway in County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office suite. The protesters called on Fitzgerald to drop plans to open up Allegheny County Parks for fracking. The County Executive’s office is currently reviewing proposals from natural gas drilling companies to lease the oil and gas rights under Deer Lakes Park for fracking.
The sit-in is part of a day of action against dirty energy to culminate the Power Shift conference. Over a thousand supporters from Power Shift participated in an un-permitted march to the County Courthouse to support the sit-in, following a rally on the North Shore’s Allegheny Landing earlier this morning. The marchers arrived shortly after the sit-in began and filled the courthouse courtyard, with dozens joining the occupation of the County Executive’s office. No one was arrested.
“Fitzgerald is trying to cut a deal with the natural gas industry without seeking formal input from the residents of Allegheny County on this issue. There is no public participation process, so we have to create it and that’s what we’re doing today with this sit-in. We are bringing our message straight to Fitzgerald that the residents of Allegheny County do not want fracking in our parks.” said Ben Fiorillo of O’hara Township.
Keith Brunner of Rising Tide Vermont was part of the support rally, “We stand in solidarity with the Protect Our Parks campaign, knowing that this fight is part of a much larger movement against all forms of fossil fuel extraction which are devastating local communities and the climate.”
Opponents to the plan to frack the parks highlight the health and safety risks associated with shale gas development.
“This plan will bring many more wells to the Deer Lakes area, and with it heavy truck traffic, noise, stadium lighting, and air pollution, all of which will impact park-goers and nearby residents, whether the well pads are in the parks or not,” according to Jessica McPherson of Pittsburgh who also joined the sit-in.
The three lakes, which give Deer Lakes its name, are all fed by springs, which could also be impacted by fracking under the parks.
McPherson continued, “What I’m most worried about is that fracking under the park will contaminate the groundwater which feed these three lakes these lakes are a destination for hundreds of local residents. An accident like that could ruin this treasured fishing hole and expose park-goers to dangerous fracking chemicals.”
The day of action also included civil disobedience led by the Earth Quaker Action Team at PNC bank branches throughout the city, who are calling on the bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining.