Fracking and the Green Stuff

Bill and Tabitha fracking rallyLoretta and LoraxRachel Mark with signPA IPL speaks about fracking as we do all things: as it relates to climate change, and from there, as it affects Creation and particularly the most vulnerable people.

Jump down to hear about a couple of recent public demonstrations that PA IPL leaders participated in on May 6 and June 17 (including a prayer by Rev. Loretta Collins), check out our statement on fracking ( Marcellus Principles Sept.19.2011PAIPL Marcellus Exec Summary), or read on for a bit of current background.  When you’re done, pop over to Interfaith Power & Light’s action page to add your name to the list of people of faith urging the EPA to tighten restrictions on fracking.

We’re now seeing clear evidence that the availability of “cheap” natural gas is slowing development of clean energy facilities, rather than supporting it (unlike coal and nuclear plants, natural gas electricity-generation plants can shut on and off relatively quickly, making them a better support for wind and solar).  Combine that with the news that methane leakage from extraction and transportation is much higher than previously imagined (estimated rates vary a good deal, but they’re all higher than estimated in the ear, and suddenly we’ve got a picture of the global warming load of natural gas that is much worse than either we previously thought or than we see if we just consider end-use combustion.  Methane (CH4) degrades faster than carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, but for the first 20 years it is has a warming/insulating power many, many times greater than carbon dioxide (over 70 times greater for the first 20 years, with some sources going as high as 86).  At this critical time in our work to slow emissions, that is particularly damaging.

We’re also seeing that neither jobs, nor promised economic nor tax benefits have materialized.  Even in counties where there has been economic activity, not all the economic impacts are positive.  Renters are often priced out of their homes by gas-industry rents paid at high rates by the companies, for example.  The Sierra Club has been documenting the economic impact of state parks  and outdoor recreation on Pennsylvania.  Fracking puts that at risk.  It has not gone unnoticed that this is a campaign year in PA, and fracking money shows up there, too — on both sides of the aisle. People at these rallies deeply disagreed with one another about whether fracking should be banned or heavily regulated and taxed, but clearly agreed that a moratorium on new permits, particularly in publicly-owned lands should continue.   PA IPL’s position has not changed since we released it in 2011 (PAIPL Marcellus Exec SummaryMarcellus Principles Sept.19.2011).  The conditions for ethical drilling have still not been met.

For those who like numbers, here is who’s fracking in PA: from 2010 to June of 2014, 59 companies operated 6,710 “unconventional drilling” wells in PA — a number that does not include subcontractors or related operations. 10 companies operated 50 or fewer wells, 10 operated 51-200, and 13 operated 201 or more wells each.   (Report generated here: begin 1/1/2010, end 6/20/2014, “select all” well status).

May 6 Rally and Counter-Rally, Harrisburg
On May 6, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, composed of the fracking industry, staged a march and rally to support their industry in Harrisburg. Their people gathered on City Island in the Susquehanna River before marching over a bridge to Front street, to State Street to the steps of the Capitol. Keystone Trails Association called for a counter-demonstration. The industry turned out a large number of people wearing red or blue t-shirts promoting jobs and energy.  When they got to Front street, they were greeted by counter-demonstrators (including some PA IPL members and leaders) carrying signs.

One protester, Gene Stilp, got out ahead of the industry marchers and leading their march to the steps with a sign that read ”Tax the Frackers Behind Me.” The KTA group stayed at the Front street location until most of the industry people had passed, and then moved to the Capitol steps, which were then filled with red or blue t-shirts. The crowd was then given a talk about how their industry was so important to the benefit of all.

June 17 Rally in the Rotunda: Defend our Forests
The rally protested the decision by Governor Corbett — announced Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend, when few questions would be asked — to lift the moratorium on new well permits on State Forest lands in order to fill a budget gap with “impact fees.”  The rally offered several good speakers, including 2 clergy members, a State Representative, the leaders of a clean water group, an environmental group, and an anti-fracking activist group, a member of an organization that independently analyses the PA budget, and an Audubon Society birder who focuses on songbirds that must have deep forest to nest.  Good speakers, all, and each with a different perspective.

The opening prayer offered by Rev. Loretta Collins (above, center, with PA IPL director Cricket Hunter and her daughters as the Loraxes behind her) of the Jubilee Ministries office of the Episcopal Church appears below.

Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds and galaxies and the infinite complexity of living things. In giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation.

Open our eyes, gracious Creator, to see the destruction we cause by our careless consumption.

Open our ears, merciful God, to hear the groaning of all creation, and the cries of all without a voice.

Open our hearts, compassionate Spirit, to feel remorse for our unfaithful care of your creation.

And so, enable us to change our ways.  Give us a vision of faithful living on this great globe.

Give us wisdom and reverence to use the resources of nature, so that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty.  Amen

Adapted from prayers from the Book of Common Prayer and the Confessions of Presion Burroughs