FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail