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I just caught a train, hoping to reach upstate New York before Amtrak shuts down more lines due to flooding. The tail of Tropical Storm Lee is whipping the Northeast even as the region struggles to recover from Hurricane Irene. And on the other extreme, Texas is drying out and burning.

Mother Nature (that is, the natural and climate systems the concept represents) certainly has cause to be furious, like the insatiable human appetite to burn energy and pollute. But at least she’s not alone—as was clear from the gathering of several hundred people for Shale Gas Outrage in Philadelphia over the last two days.

At a rally and march yesterday, landowners spoke about the toll that gas development is taking on their properties and health. Elected officials called on their colleagues to be influenced more by citizens and less by campaign-contributing corporations. Musicians rocked the crowd with tunes about the air and water we all need, now and for the future.

Around the corner, the gas industry and its political supporters were supposedly seeking Shale Gas Insight at a trade conference. But press reports (and communications from allies who were inside) indicated that attendees were only hearing their favorite story, in which shale gas solves economic woes and nothing ever goes wrong. (A notable exception was former PA Governor Ed Rendell, who acted like a skunk at a party when he said the protesters outside have legitimate concerns and admonished industry to clean up its act.)

Unfortunately, yesterday New York officials also decided to ignore growing concerns over fracking by issuing a very flawed final draft of the SGEIS, the document that will guide deep shale gas development in the state. As the New York Water Rangers coalition points out, gaping holes remain: no consideration of impacts over time, health problems, or economic costs to communities. Also omitted were recommendations to ban toxic chemicals and classify drilling waste as hazardous.

Worst of all, New York isn’t waiting for the final review to be completed to draft new regulations—passing up the opportunity to be the first state to establish effective protections for people and the environment before issuing drilling permits.

Today, many of the Shale Outrage participants gathered again, this time to discuss strategies that can stop the shale gas rush from trampling health, justice, and clean air and water—including getting off of dirty energy and pursuing truly clean alternatives. New Yorkers are also part of this growing movement, and will prove it as they turn out in force for hearings and submit comments on the SGEIS.

A new type of storm is gathering, fueled by outrage over irresponsible gas development—and as it gains strength, one day it just might put a smile back on Mother Nature’s face.

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