As more than 230 people from 25 states and Canada gathered last week in Pittsburgh, the EARTHWORKS National People’s Oil and Gas Summit shone a bright light on both shared problems and the potential for lasting solutions. As participants listened to presentations by scientists and citizens, held lively discussions, and got busy strategizing, the idea that there is far more that unites than divides us rang true.
Reports of serious health problems in the oil and gas patches of Texas, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania are tragically similar, and bad leasing, drilling, and waste disposal practices are now ubiquitous. As both drilling for and consumption of natural gas spreads across the nation, the true costs of dirty energy development have become harder to ignore the West, with its longstanding energy development, and the East, with its newly exploited shale gas plays, increasingly share common interests and stories. And as climate change and pollution accelerate, only a collective quickening of the pace will win the race for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.
In her opening remarks to the Summit, Oil & Gas Accountability Project director Gwen Lachelt commented that while groups may differ in their approaches (regulation or ban, legislative process or civil disobedience, and more), victories occur when we stay focused on shared goals: healthy communities, clean air and water, and industry accountability. Just imagine, she said, how strong the movement will become and what we will accomplish if we circle the wagons and turn all the bullets outward. As energy producers and consumers, we re all in this together, and change is all of ours to create.