Disturbing fracking news

I am a veteran of the fight against shale gas development in New York State, and, more broadly, against unconventional fossil fuel development and for a rapid increase in renewable energy in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming as low as possible.

I am fortunate to live in the Binghamton area, not that far from Ithaca, where several prominent scientists and professors work. They often came to speak at events in Binghamton and I sometimes would travel to Ithaca for lectures. I learned a lot from them and would use their research in commenting on news articles and in writing blog posts.

One of my favorite speakers is Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University. His specialty is rock fracture mechanics and he had done hydraulic fracturing research for many years, putting him in a unique position to anticipate the dangers of combining high-volume slick-water hydrofracking with long laterals in shale. He teamed with Dr. Robert Howarth, an environmental scientist at Cornell, in the first major paper raising an alarm about methane leakage from shale oil/gas development; the paper was controversial, but prescient, with subsequent research affirming levels of methane leakage much higher than industry and government projections.

This newly released twelve minute video with Dr. Ingraffea shows the climate consequences of the decision to develop shale gas. This blog post by Sharon Kelly gives some further background and also has a link to the video, in case the embedded one below isn’t working. 

Groundswell Rising

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities across the country and what some of those people are doing in response. You can view the trailer and get much more information, including signing up for updates here: http://www.groundswellrising.com/ .

Because I have been involved in advocacy against shale fossil fuel for several years, the information in the film was not news to me, but it was powerful to see the story compacted into an hour and twenty minutes, beginning in the West with Erie, Colorado, and moving East into the Marcellus with the impacts in Pennsylvania and our ongoing fight in New York to keep drilling – and as much of the waste disposal and infrastructure impacts as possible – out of our state.

Because my town is on the NY border with a heavily drilled PA county, we have seen impacts up close and have felt some ourselves, including heavy truck traffic, road degradation, and noise, light, and air pollution. And because much of the filming was done in NY and PA, I have had the privilege of hearing rally speeches, lectures, or debates from many of the people who appear in the film, including Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, NY Assemblymember and US Congress candidate Martha Robertson, (now retired) Rep. Maurice Hinchey, Vera Scroggins, and Craig Stevens. There was also footage from events in which I participated, such as the the Stop the Frack Attack rally and march in Washington DC.

We were privileged to have a question and answer session after the film. Renard Cohen, executive producer/director (Resolution Films), and David Walczak, associate producer, were there to answer questions about the film itself and local community organizer Isaac Silberman-Gorn gave the NY political perspective. Most powerfully, there were four of our PA neighbors who are affected by drilling and fully engaged in the fight against it sharing their stories: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, David Kagan, and Ray Kemble. When you hear such personal stories and hear the emotions in their voices, you know this is not some political-economic power play; it’s about regular folks who have had their lives and homes violated and who will never be able to regain what they have lost. It was especially poignant as the day before the screening, Vera Scroggins had been in court over an injunction that Cabot Oil and Gas had placed last fall which has kept her from setting foot on over the third of the land in her PA county. (Links to media coverage on that here:  http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/03/26/cabot-martyrs-the-vera-for-frackcrack-photo/ . Warning: post contains photo of a gas worker mooning Vera, because they try, albeit unsuccessfully, to intimidate her at every turn.)

Fractivism feels like a David versus Goliath enterprise, a small number of the common people fighting the powerful industry that has co-opted much of the government that should be protecting us. Given that a lot of time is taken up with private research and comment writing and writing/calling government officials, it is easy to feel isolated. When you see the suffering that the industry is causing, it is easy to feel discouraged. That is why films like this are so important. For those of us in the fight, we can see the people with whom we are connected in spirit and advocacy and draw energy and inspiration from them. For those who aren’t familiar with the topic, this film presents a sobering introduction to what it is like to live near drilling.

The film’s subtitle is “Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water.” It is that vital. Please look for a screening near you or request a screening, if one isn’t yet scheduled. Watch for it at film festivals. There are hopes for cinematic release or television. I have put in an email to POV on PBS, suggesting that they include it in their series. (I’m hoping for PBS over HBO because it is easier for those of us without premium cable to see it.)

We have kept the industry from drilling in NY for over six years. People in other states are fighting hard to keep the industry out or to rein it in or put moratoria in place. By documenting the fight, “Groundswell Rising” is doing important work. Let’s make sure as many people as possible get to see it.