A Frack-Wolf in a Sheep’s Clothing: How Pennsylvania Democrats are Selling out the Future



Original essay, The Wrench:

THE WRENCH: A Frack-Wolf in a Sheep’s Clothing: How Pennsylvania Democrats are Selling out the Future

Complete set of photographs: The Everyday Fracking Destruction of Pennsylvania – an album on Flickr

While I applaud Pennsylvania Voters Against Fracking (Pennsylvania Voters Against Fracking | Food & Water Watch Fund) for hounding now Democrat Party candidate for governor Tom Wolf to endorse his party’s moratorium resolution, it’s truly hard to imagine that anyone considering a vote for Mr. Wolf believes that he’ll endorse the moratorium–much less put a halt to fracking in Pennsylvania.

He absolutely will not, and in fact articulates a tax on the industry as the panacea-recipe for restoring funding to an ailing public school and university system. In other words, he’s not only not going to put a halt to the fracktastrophe–it’s going to be full steam ahead via a 5% tax that Wolf and his supporters must surely hope will appease a large enough majority of the state’s growing anti-fracking movement.

Put differently: promising a 5% tax on the industry is nothing more than a bribe–or an extortion–to get us to put down our protest signs and signal, for example, to the pipeline contractors (like Williams Partners) that it doesn’t really matter who’s in the governor’s mansion, extraction can move ahead business as usual–all the way to 100,000 wells.


Wolf’s 60% of the primary vote must have included lots of folks who claim to be anti-fracking, but would apparently settle for a tax, or regulation, that is, poorly regulated regulation of the rate, though not the volume, of harm. These are, in other words, folks who are not actually anti-fracking, but apparently want to be able to tell themselves and each other that they tried to get a moratorium, tried to get the best candidate who could win the governor’s mansion, tried to do the right thing–but are, what? “Realistic”? ”

Here’s another name for this position: resignation; standing behind a “Ban Fracking Now” sign that we all know does not mean Jack Shit to an industry that enjoys the cover of “regulation” under both the Halliburton Loophole and state laws written by and for the industry by revolving door representatives and governor appointments who interests are indistinguishable from that of their donor fossil fuel corporations.

And the folks who endorsed Wolf have no excuse for not getting the essential point that their candidate has precisely no motivation to change his pro-frack tune–and every reason to keep and expand it.

From Wolf’s website:

“With Pennsylvania sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, Tom Wolf believes that the Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s future. We must ensure that we take advantage of this resource and opportunity in a way that benefits all Pennsylvanians and protects our water and environment.

Four years ago Tom Wolf called for a severance tax on natural gas extraction and responsible development, saying:
Pennsylvania is sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, the Marcellus Shale formation, which stretches from our northeast to southwest corner. With new drilling techniques we can now efficiently unlock these massive natural gas deposits that lie beneath huge portions of our state.
Experts estimate there might be as much as 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas beneath Pennsylvania’s soil. That would make our commonwealth the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and, if managed correctly, transform our economy. Tom Wolf believes Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s economic future.

The urgent challenge facing our state leaders, now and into the future, is how to manage this remarkable natural resource so that its benefits are broadly shared by the citizens of Pennsylvania for many years to come.

Unfortunately, Governor Corbett’s failed leadership has given away our state’s valuable resources without generating revenue for critical investments like schools, roads, and economic development and harmed our environment. If states like Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma are able to charge a severance tax on gas extraction to fund key priorities, it’s time Pennsylvania does too. And just as Pennsylvania helped to fuel the industrial revolution with the first commercially developed oil wells in Titusville and the anthracite coal fields, we can once again have a bright economic future based on these abundant natural gas reserves. The negative environmental impact of the oil and coal booms, however, should serve as a warning of what can happen if our natural resources are not properly managed.

  1. Enact a severance tax to build for Pennsylvania’s future.
  2. Make smart investments to fund Pennsylvania’s priorities.
  3. Ensure responsible drilling to protect Pennsylvania’s environment.” (Developing the Marcellus Shale while protecting Pennsylvania’s environment – Tom Wolf for Governor).

It’s hard to know exactly what to call this–painfully naive or willfully ignorant. But as my photographs illustrate, business as usual on any given day on any given of 7800 or so well pads in Pennsylvania does not inspire confidence.


So far as I can see, Democratic nominee Tom Wolf has done nothing to prevent one iota of this.

Anyone who thinks a severance tax is going to fix the environmental damage already done or prevent what’s coming is willfully ignorant. It’s like holding out for the hope that “responsible drilling” isn’t an wholesale oxymoron.

It takes 100 years to grow 100 year old trees.
Dead from cancer is dead.
Childhood asthma becomes adult asthma
Neurological damage is the loss of your brain.
Species that are driven to extinction don’t come back.
Wells that are poisoned stay poisoned.
Communities destroyed by division over who makes out
and who gets screwed are no longer “communities.”
Ways of life destroyed by the incursion of industrial pollution,
noise, and property takings are called “history.”

How do Wolf and his fans not get this?

Here’s what they aren’tt getting–and it is well past high time we did:

The catastrophe that is slickwater hydraulic horizontal fracking is not to be found in the spectacular blowouts, explosions, “accidental returns to surface,” secret dumpings, etc. by themselves. And even if we could go some ways to prevent these, that’s naught but slapping on a little make-up and a wig on a patient whose disease is still terminal so long as we keep acting in ways we know compromise her health.


The catastrophe that is fracking is what happens every single minute of every single day at pads like Chief’s Dacheau. The systematic poisoning of our water; the forest fragmentation, the idling truck emissions, the sand clouds, the noise, the quiet creeping exposure to carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, particulates, and so on and so on.

And until we all get that fact, we are going to be willing to settle for the manifest Bull-Poo that is Tom Wolf’s statement on fracking.

Think about it this way: why should we trust what Mr. Wolf has to say about anything when we know he has bought hook, line, and sinker the industry’s own raft of “Saudi Arabia of NatGas” talking points?

Why should we take seriously a candidate who has so gone out of his way to ignore the facts about this form of extreme extraction–for years?

What should we think about a candidate who promises to restore funding for the short-term by selling out our children’s health on the long-term?

Tom Wolf is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At least Corbett is the wolf in the Wolf outfit.

You have an alternative to both Wolf….and the wolf.

Paul Glover, Pennsylvania Green Party supports nothing less than a ban on fracking: governor issues glover. In other words, you have a choice of a candidate that understands that without clean air and water, without viable communities, without the security against the incursions of a state too beholden to multinationals, our hope of a democracy where our voices make a difference is lost. You can choose the guy who won the nod of the Democrats in virtue of his capacity to outspend his opponents and bamboozle anti-fracking activists into thinking he’s somehow on their team–or you can vote for the guy who refuses to take corporate donations.


In other words, you can vote for a business as usual that’s transforming Pennsylvania into a natural gas extraction colony where the cost are all externalized to, well, us, and the benefits will accrue to the off-shore bank accounts of multinational corporations–that’s a vote for Mr. Wolf whose tax plan will do not a thing to prevent the fracktastrophe.

Or you can screw up a little courage and vote for your neighbors and your kids–that’s a vote for Glover.

Pipeline cut, Chief Dacheux Pad, 5.21.14,
Photo Wendy Lynne Lee

If your not sure, look again at the photographs I took one day after the PA primaries. If you still not sure, here’s the whole ugly–this is happening everyday all over the state–set:
The Everyday Fracking Destruction of Pennsylvania – an album on Flickr

At the end of the day it’s pretty easy to carry around protest signs–god knows I’ve paid my dues here–and yell out that you’d really like that moratorium.

But the writing’s on the wall: protests and petitions ain’t gonna cut it against what amounts to a corporate army who can essentially deploy the forces of the state to keep you from finding out what they’re willing to do to you in the interest of pursuing the almighty greenback.

Standing on a public road with my camera yesterday, I was chased off both the EXCO Warner Pad on Rt, 118, just outside of Lairdsville, (where I have photographed many times), threatened with a call to the state police, and then a white trucked-security guard appeared out of the blue while I was photographing the Marquardt–Rine Rd, Rt, 220, near Sonestown.


These photographs are getting harder and harder to get–and just to reiterate, I am on public roads. Will Mr. Wolf do anything about that? I doubt it. But then again, so long as the folks who may well put him in office are satisfied that the best we can do is hold protests and sign petitions, he–and his natural gas friends–can continue to paint the only real resistance in Pennsylvania–those who have stood up for a ban on fracking–as the “radicals,” all the while painting themselves as the “rational.”

But where “rational” means the continuation of what’s in these photographs, I vote for the “radical.”

Why? Because in this case, “radical” just means courageous enough to try to make you see what “realistic” is going to get you–a reality that isn’t pretty, but will only accelerate with a vote for Wolf.

Don’t settle for the wolf in the sheep outfit.

Come November, vote Green party. Vote Glover.


Update: Environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer’s “plan to raise $100 million to make global warming a major campaign issue and attack Republicans, including Corbett” may indeed make climate change a major issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign. But while Wolf is not likely to deny the human contribution to warming weather patterns, his position is nothing but hypocrisy if he refuses to acknowledge the contribution of methane to global warming. “The Wolf campaign did not immediately explain Wolf’s position on climate change Thursday.” Is that because they already know that the moment they sign onto the anthropogenic contribution they’ll have a problem holding onto the absurd “bridge fuel” argument Wolf’s explicitly embraced? How does Wolf endorse fracking without denying climate change? How can he acknowledge climate change–and not at a minimum sign the moratorium as his first act in office?

But perhaps even more important–and curious–why would a billionaire environmentalist seek to help anti-environment Tom Wolf?

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!