Yesterday, while former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge was inside the DoubleTree Hotel as a paid spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a crowd stood outside in the rain protesting the very actions Ridge was advocating. “Fracking is a crime! Don’t allow the drilling!” chanted the crowd of 25 or so protesters at the urging of Iris Marie Bloom. Bloom, who was featured on our March cover, is a declared environmental activist and, as director of Protecting Our Waters, is leading a fight against irresponsible natural gas drilling—or fracking—in Pennsylvania.
More than $4 billion has already been invested in natural gas production in the state. While natural gas can be an important energy resource, poorly regulated drilling operations in the state have resulted in water and air pollution that have compromised human health. Fracking is currently happening in the Susquehanna watershed, but there are new proposals to frack sites in the upper Delaware River watershed, the source of Philadelphia’s drinking water.
In Pennsylvania, the gas is primarily found in Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that stretches from Ohio and West Virginia northeast into Pennsylvania and southern New York.
Ridge is a strategic advisor for the Marcellus Shale Coalition and was speaking at a pro-fracking Chamber of Commerce event. Major natural gas developers like Range Resources, known for their fracking projects in southwestern Pennsylvania and Texas, were also in attendance.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition portrays itself as a responsible developer of natural gas, but Bloom and the other protesters would argue that there is little “responsible” fracking happening in the state.
“Fracking constitutes a consumptive use of water,” said Julie Edgar from Gas Truth during an impassioned speech at the protest. In fracking water is used and left polluted, with 60-70 percent remaining trapped in shale formations, she said. “Gas is a resource, but water is life!”
Along with anti-fracking signs, protesters held water samples taken from Pennsylvania water sources contaminated by natural gas drilling. Bloom also asked for signatures on a letter that will be sent to current governor Tom Corbett. The letter calls for no new drilling permits until fracking regulations are set to protect Pennsylvanians and their environment.
“What we’re doing to our environment is unforgivable,” said Center City resident Ellen Condello who was protesting with her husband. “We have five grandchildren, I’d like them to be able to drink the water.”