The debate over shale gas often focuses on staid things like price per million cubic foot, corporate governance, and production figures. Then there’s the human side, the growing number of people nationwide whose lives have been forever changed by the rush to drill. Their views are expressed not in spreadsheets, but in tragically true stories of poor health and polluted water and air.
Last week in Philadelphia, hundreds of citizens, activists, and energy and environmental experts gathered to voice Shale Gas Outrage over the heavy burdens being placed on communities and the environment. Philadelphia was one stop in the journey to Stop the Frack Attack, kicked off by Washington, DC, Columbus, OH, and Albany, NY, and followed soon by Harrisburg, PA and many other places.
As speakers took the stage and the crowd swelled, the rally literally faced off with the industry—with attendees of a shale gas conference watching the event through convention center windows. Hopefully some heard not only the problems, but the solutions offered: safer drilling practices, an end to corporate tax breaks and special legal exemptions, and most of all a rapid shift to clean energy.
As Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper put it, the “extremists” are not those who protest the status quo of gas development—but the companies pursuing extreme types of energy with extreme technologies, extreme loopholes, and an extreme lack of regulatory oversight. And as environmental author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben summed up, the ever-louder calls to end fracking are about so much more: ending use of the fossil fuels that are, bit by bit, destroying both communities and the planet.