FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Frack War Comes Home

The war came home this weekend, as thousands of people whose land has been under siege by the U.S. government and corporate interests gathered in Washington, D.C. No, they weren’t victims of drone attacks or 10-plus years of fighting in Afghanistan. They were ordinary Americans, whose neighborhoods, townships and states have been struggling to put an end to fracking, a destructive form of natural gas drilling.

These veterans of the frack war were in Washington for a national convergence called Stop the Frack Attack. Over the course of two days, they held teach-ins and strategy sessions on ways to bring relief to their communities through collective action, before ending on Saturday with the first ever national march and rally against fracking. Many hailed the event as an important step to building a broad, grassroots movement to ban the drilling practice.

“I’m going to dream big,” said Jennie Scheibach with NonToxic Ohio, a group fighting the spread of fracking in northern Ohio and the disposal of fracking waste in the state’s rivers. “Standing together, rising up together, we can stop this.”

Jennie wasn’t alone. Thousands of people from across the country, from voluminous backgrounds, joined in common cause in D.C. over the weekend, raising the call for an end to fracking.

Lori New Breast of the Blackfoot Nation, whose homeland encompasses parts of Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, took part in the rally. She said her community is mobilizing to reject fracking. “Oil companies would like you to think that that land is unoccupied and that we are gone. But as the care takers of the headwaters of the continent, we are still here. We do not want fracking. It is a threat to our cultural way of life.”

Members of Occupy Wall Street Environmental Solidarity were also on hand in D.C. as well, carrying banners that read, “Safe Fracking is a Lie; Occupy! Resist!” and “Frack Wall Street, Not Our Water!”

Meanwhile, suburban mothers like Vicky Bastidas, who brought her three teenage daughters to the rally, were present. She and her family have been fighting frackers from drilling near schools and playgrounds in their home town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Vicky said she was heartened by a recent court decision that overturned a law barring local municipalities from banning fracking and now looks forward to passing a ban in her town.

The decision might have come too late to reverse much of the long-term damage that the unimpeded invasion of drilling has done to Pennsylvania, but nonetheless it grants Pennsylvanians a chance to set up legal barricades against the fracking bombardment. Bastidas had a message from her family to Governor Corbett and lawmakers like him: “Our water is not for sale. We can live without oil. We can live without gas. But we cannot live without water.”

This was a widespread sentiment among the approximately 4,000 demonstrators who marched from the Capitol building to the headquarters of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry’s lobbying arm. Along the way they made a brief stop at the home base of the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), where Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum held up a murky, brown libation of chemical diarrhea in a clear plastic jug.

“This is frack water,” she said. “We don’t want it in our communities. We can’t drink it safely. We’re giving it back to the drillers. I bet they won’t drink it!” Uniformed in hazmat suits, Van Rossum and several of her colleagues with Delaware Riverkeeper chanted “shame” and pounded on ANGA’s doors, but a representative of the Alliance failed to appear for a taste test.

Next, demonstrators flooded the courtyard of API’s home office. “The water, the water, the water is on fire,” they hollered in unison, “We don’t need no fracking let the corporations burn.” Members of the crowd set down a 10-foot replica of a fracking rig made of bamboo and canvas at API’s door and tipped it over. The move was a symbolic representation of what they hope the burgeoning movement against fracking can accomplish nationally.

The action also pointed toward another tipping point, that of the climate, which has been driven to the brink of near collapse by the fossil fuel industry with the support of politicians, including President Barack Obama, who received $884,000 in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry in 2008. Given such a payout, it should not be surprising that Obama signed a little-noticed executive order earlier this year establishing an intergovernmental task force for the support of “unconventional” gas drilling — in other words fracking.

With the stroke of a pen, Obama picked a side in a war that began under his predecessor’s administration. In 2005, lawmakers on Capitol Hill approved the Energy Policy Act, a bill championed by then-Vice President and former Halliburton executive Dick Cheney that exempted frackers from the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA). The fracking amendments gave the world’s wealthiest energy corporations license to invade some of America’s poorest counties, poison their drinking water, foul their air and putrefy their soil. For each frack site, and there are now tens of thousands across America, drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into the land in order to draw oil and gas from shale rock.

Since the frack boom began, impoverished, cloistered communities sitting on millions of dollars worth of shale gas — from Pennsylvania to Wyoming, from indigenous tribal lands in Montana to the Texas border — have become ground zeros for fracking. In most cases, they are offered a short-term cash prize for land rights or desperately needed jobs in return for long-term ecological devastation. Such a strategy for prosperity, critics contend, would have left mountaintop removal strongholds in Appalachia looking like Beverly Hills long ago.

Instead, it seems the only pockets being lined are those of the corporate executives and politicians. In 2010, the fracking industry raked in $76 billion in revenues. Meanwhile, the Obama 2012 campaign is set to bring in more from oil and gas lobbyists than was raised in the previous election. If there’s hope in matching corporate campaign donations, though, it’s not with money, but rather a national movement, comprised of the diverse voices of dissent that marched through Washington on Saturday.

Peter Rugh is a facilitator for Occupy Wall Street Environmental Solidarity and chairs the Action Committee of Shut Down Indian Point Now! Pete blogs at EartoEarth.org.

More articles by:

Peter Rugh is a writer and activist based in Brooklyn, New York.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 20, 2020
Katie Fite
How the Military is Raiding Public Lands and Civilian Spaces Across the Western Front
Nicholas Levis
Bloomberg is the Equal Evil
David Swanson
Shut Down Canada Until It Solves Its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem
Thomas Knapp
Freedom for $5.30…and This Time Mexico Really is Paying for It
Nick Pemberton
Mr. Sanders: Would You like Your Coffee Without Cream, or Without Milk?
Rachel M. Fazio
A Trillion Trees in Rep. Westerman’s Hands Means a Trillion Stumps
Jeff Mackler
Break With Two-Party Capitalist Duopoly!
Rebecca Gordon
Impunity Guaranteed for Torturers (and Presidents)
Jacob Hornberger
The CIA’s Role in Operation Condor
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Let Rome Burn
Jen Pelz
Reforming Expectations to Save Western Rivers
Maria Paez Victor
Canada Trapped By Its Own Folly
Binoy Kampmark
Pardoning Julian Assange: Trump, WikiLeaks and the DNC
Mel Gurtov
Poor Bill Barr
February 19, 2020
Ishmael Reed
Social Media: The New Grapevine Telegraph
David Schultz
Bernie Sanders and the Revenge of the Superdelegates
Kenneth Surin
Modi’s India
Chris Floyd
Which Side Are You On?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Hysteria Isn’t Killing Nuclear Power
Dave Lindorff
Truly Remaking Social Security is the Key to Having a Livable Society in the US
ANIS SHIVANI
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The Selected Sayings of the Much-Awaited Establishment Messiah
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” and Israel’s Settlements
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Case: Critical Moment for the Anti-war Movement
Howard Lisnoff
The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass
Yves Engler
Canada, Get Out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS
Nick Licata
The Rule of Law Under Trump
Sam Gordon
A Treatise on Trinities
Nino Pagliccia
Open Letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Lima Group Meeting
John Kendall Hawkins
Just Two Kings Talking
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Purgatory Under the Patriarchy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail