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Stop fracking

Rally demands end to ‘Marcellus madness’

Published Oct 9, 2010 6:21 AM

Hundreds of activists from across Pennsylvania rallied and lobbied in the capital of Harrisburg Sept. 22 for a moratorium on natural gas drilling and against gas-industry-sponsored legislation designed to give the green light to unfettered drilling in the Marcellus Shale that sits beneath much of the state.

Protesters carried signs reading “Stop fracking,” “Who can drink gas?” and “Protect Pennsylvania’s water,” while chanting “No free pass for oil and gas!”

The rally was sponsored by Protecting Our Waters, Citizens for Clean Water, the Allegheny Defense Project, the Delaware River Keeper Network, PennEnvironment, Pennsylvania Sierra Club, International WOW, the Responsible Drilling Alliance, the Gas Accountability Project, Campaign for Clean Water and Clean Water Action.

Victoria Switzer, a resident of Dimock, Pa., where 33 water wells were poisoned by Cabot Oil and Gas drilling, stated: “Those in Harrisburg who pose this as a tradeoff between environmental impact and economic boom don’t get it. Water is a non-renewable resource. To trade our most precious resource — water — is Marcellus madness.” (Clean Water Action)

Cabot has drilled 63 gas wells in a nine-square-mile area in Dimock. “There are 100 wells within walking distance of my home,” Switzer noted. Her well and wells of other Dimock residents have tested positive for chemicals used in the fracking process such as ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, toluene and xylene.

Legislation for the fracking moratorium faces an uphill battle as politicians submit to pressure from the gas industry, which has made political contributions to nearly every state representative and senator, plus both candidates in the gubernatorial race.

But the key drilling issue in Harrisburg is Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposed 5 percent “severance” tax on natural gas, which is projected to raise $280 million in 2011. It must be voted on by Oct. 1. Similar legislation was withdrawn by Rendell in 2009 under pressure from the gas industry.

State Republicans want to limit the tax to 1.5 percent for the first five years after a well is opened — usually the well’s most productive period. The gas industry also wants to couple this with the elimination of local zoning control over drilling.

Rendell has indicated he will veto any severance bill of only 1.5 percent. He also told moratorium advocates they were wasting their time, and should back his 5 percent tax plan, which will most likely be blocked by Republicans.

Concerns over the impact of drilling on water supplies are mounting around the state. Drought watches have been posted for 43 counties. Another 24 counties under serious drought warnings are areas where gas drilling companies have been given permits to withdraw millions of gallons of water from creeks and streams every day.