At noon today over 40 activists and community members gathered outside the office of PA State Senator Chuck McIlhinney’s office in Doylestown to urge him to support a moratorium on fracking in Pennsylvania. Today’s rally was part of a state-wide day of action coordinated by Berks Gas Truth, Food and Water Watch, PA, Mountain Watershed Association, and PennEnvironment. Under the banner of “Independence from Fracking,” protests took place today in Allentown, Brockway, Doylestown, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Murrysville, Philadelphia, Wayne County, and West Chester.
According to Katie Siegner from PennEnvironment, the goal of today’s rally was to urge Senator McIlhinney to support a statewide moratorium on fracking. Increasing public pressure on McIlhinney to support a statewide moratorium seems especially pointed in that he supported a moratorium for Bucks County.
Siegner made the case for parity for all Pennsylvanians, not just those who happen to live in wealthier districts:
Senator McIlhinney has supported a moratorium for just Bucks County and we don’t believe he should be discriminating against any Pennsylvanians. If he wants to support a moratorium for Bucks County, he should support a moratorium for the whole state. We don’t want him to be putting some Pennsylvanians above others, or treating any like second-class citizens.
Siegner and Molly Lichtner, the Bucks County Coordinator and Intern with Food and Water Watch, tried to meet with McIlhinney during the protest, but he was not available. They did, however, get to speak with McIlhinney’s Chief of Staff, Heather Cevasco. [see my interviews with Katie Siegner and Molly Lichtner below]
Raging Chicken Press’s, Sean Kitchen, asked Siegner about the meeting. Siegner said, “It sounds like he’s getting there. It sounds like he’s receptive to what his constituents have to say, and what all Pennsylvanians have to say.” However, McIlhinney’s Chief of Staff would not go as far as stating that the senator will support a moratorium. “Talking to his Chief of Staff was encouraging,” Siegner said, “but he didn’t come out and acknowledge us or come out publicly in support of a state-wide moratorium still indicates to me that we need to keep the pressure on and make sure that he speaks out on what sounds like a positive feeling.”
Inteview with Katie Siegner, PennEnvironment Campaign Coordinator for Doylestown Action
Interview with Molly Lichtner, Food and Water Watch PA Bucks Co. Coordinator and Intern
Molly Lichtner (see interview above) agreed with Siegner’s call to action saying, “nothing is going to get done unless the constituents fight back,” she said. “Getting involved is something that everyone needs to do if they want to keep their water supply safe.” And there seem to be some signs that public pressure for a moratorium is being heard by some legislators. Lichtner and Siegner both pointed out that PA State Senator Andy Dinniman from West Chester came out just yesterday and said he would co-sponsor a bill in support of a moratorium. As a result, the rally in West Chester today is a “thank you” rally, according to Siegner.
Today’s actions take place less than a month after the PA Democratic Party passed a resolution in support of a moratorium on fracking. Citing a range of studies and evidence pointing to potential environmental and health impacts of fracking, the resolution stated:
The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania supports a moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing until such a time as the practice can be done safely, and further supports requiring full restitution by the natural gas industry for any harm to human life and health, for damage to property, including loss of property value, for harm to water supplies, harm to wildlife, pets and livestock, and harm to the natural environment of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The resolution did not receive support from all sectors of the Democratic Party, however, as many Democratic Party politicians have either thrown in with the natural gas industry or see fracking as a problem for constituents in solidly Republican districts and, therefore, not an issue that will translate into electoral victories. Just over two weeks ago, former Governor Ed Rendell blasted the Democratic Party leaders who voted for the resolution, calling the decision “ill-advised,” according to an article in the Patriot-News. But Ed Rendell’s influence over Pennsylvanians may be wearing thin when it comes to the issue of fracking. After some excellent reporting, including a piece in ProPublica earlier this year, Pennsylvanians are learning that Rendell’s deep pockets are lined with Natural Gas Industry money. A CREDO petition authored by Raging Chicken Press’s own Sean Kitchen in February called upon MSNBC to disclose Rendell’s ties to Natural Gas and other industries when he appears on the network as a commentator.
It just goes to show that “fracking is not a partisan issue,” says Siegner. “If State Senators want to support their constituents and represent the public interest they will support a moratorium on fracking because it’s what’s best for the health of our communities, for our water, for our air, and for our environment.”
Siegner and Lichtner both pointed to a recent Muhlenberg/University of Michigan poll showing that 59% of Pennsylvanians now support a moratorium on fracking. Those numbers seem to have been borne out on the streets of Doylestown today as hundreds of passing motorists honked horns in support of activists. One man even stopped his car in the middle of the street, backing up traffic, to apologize that he was not out there with them. “I had to work, I’m sorry I’m not standing there with you,” he said to a cheering crowd.
Just a few short years ago the issue of fracking was barely on the public’s radar. But after hundreds of rallies by activists and concerned community members like today’s “Independence from Fracking” rallies around the state, more people are starting to listen. But more important than listening, then are showing up on the streets of their hometowns and in their state and federal representatives offices.
Here’s some photos and video of today’s action:
“Independence from Fracking” rally in Doylestown, PA
Deva Troy performs her anti-fracking song, “Earth Out of Balance”
Photos from “Independence from Fracking” Rally (click photo to see entire album)