Hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale is already having devastating affects on our communities and our shared environment, so how are we going to stop it?!
The gas industry is too big and too powerful for any of us to stop it on our own. They have money, politicians, lawyers, and public relations hacks all at their disposal and they’re committed to turning our shale into their profits. However, drilling for fuel is a complicated process where many things need to line up for theses companies to succeed in extracting our resources for their profits.
If drilling is going to happen in our communities a whole host of factors need to come together, all at the same time. The gas companies need our politicians to fail to put forward effective and appropriate legislation, the regulatory agencies need to stop short of holding the gas companies accountable, the companies need financial and economic power, the gas industry needs means to push it’s public agenda and keep us and our neighbors complicit in their drilling scheme, landowners need to sign leases and the gas companies need to build a massive drilling infrastructure, constructing drilling rigs and well pads, building thousands of miles of pipelines, trucking in millions of gallons of water and chemicals and disposing of their waste.
We can think of each one of these factors like a spoke on a bike wheel. As we start to knock out, or at least destabilize some of the spokes, the wheel starts to wobble – the drilling apparatus becomes a little unsteady. If we knock out or destabilize enough of the spokes the wheel comes off its track and drilling stops altogether.
This isn’t a new plan or strategy. People across the region have been chipping away at each of these spokes for years. The key is to understand how all of the pieces fit together and support each other working on as many of them as we can. If each of us chips away at the spoke that makes the most sense to us, we’ll make the gas drillers wobble and eventually knock them off their tracks!
Here are some of the ways people are already organizing:
Strengthening Legislation—At the federal level people are organizing around the Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC Act) to close the Halliburton Loophole, subject fracking to the Safe Drinking Water Act and force the industry to reveal the chemicals used in the fracking process.
At the state level people are organizing around statewide moratoriums (New York State), state policies onthe fracking process and convincing legislatures to put a severance tax on natural gas drilling.
At the local level communities are organizing to pass city and town bans, air and water policies and zoning ordinances that affect the industry’s ability to drill in certain areas.
Making Regulators Regulate—Across the Marcellus Shale people are showing up in mass to federal EPA and state environmental agency hearings. They’re calling on state and federal regulators to do their jobs and enforce the few protections regarding shale drilling that exist while pressuring agencies to do more. They’re keeping an eye on the drillers and documenting chemical dumps and spills as well as testing and monitoring their own water sources and reporting overweight trucks.
Challenging Corporate Power—People are organizing to hold corporations accountable. They’re researching the major gas drillers and their financial backers. They’re naming and shaming the corporate executives and high profile companies that profit from gas drilling and they’re organizing shareholder actions to make sure investors know that hydrofracking is a bad investment.
Challenging the Drilling Infrastructure—Communities across the Marcellus Shale are organizing to protect their water sources from being drained and dumped in and cut off the supply of water necessary to frack their land, impose weight restrictions on trucks hauling fluids to and from drilling sites, impose noise and light ordinances and protest the gas companies use of public wastewater treatment facilities to dispose of their recovered fracking fluids.
Organizing around Land and Leases—Landowners are getting together to educate themselves on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and the dangers of signing leases. Landowner coalitions can bargain collectively against the gas companies and push up the price of drilling. Where leases have already been signed community groups are educating landowners about their rights and helping landowners protect themselves by conducting baseline testing and enforcing the provisions of their leases. People are also working to protect landowners from having their land drilled without their consent through ‘forced pooling’ – a sort of eminent domain that allows gas companies access to people’s land without signing leases.
Confronting Corporate Propaganda—Many groups are working to debunk the lies and myths being put out by the gas companies. Organizers are pushing back against the gas companies in the media, through public forums and regional networks sharing their stories about poisoned well water , ill health affects and destroyed land. They’re debunking the industry’s propaganda and lies about jobs and the economic boon of shale drilling – exposing the long-term hazards of such reckless development. And they’re creating their own media publishing newspapers, flyers, radio programs, zines and documentary film to tell the real story about hydraulic fracturing.