A week after July Fourth celebrations, Pennsylvanians rallied for independence from fracking across the state on July 11, in events organized by Food and Water Watch.
Constituents, community groups and environmental organizations rallied at senators’ offices in support of legislation to establish a moratorium on fracking. Members of local groups, like Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS), went to Senator Lisa Baker’s office in Hawley to meet with Thomas Yoniski Jr., the field representative of Baker. The event was organized by Alice Zinnes, who said she is against fracking for health and environmental reasons, and is in strong support of renewable energy.
Other senators included Browne (Lehigh), Dinniman (Chester), Farnese (Philadelphia), Kasunic (Fayette), McIlhinney (Bucks), Scarnati (Jefferson), Ward (Westmoreland), and White (Indiana).
To begin the meeting, Yoniski read a letter from Baker, in which she stated that she has heard from countless people on both sides of the fracking debate, and has taken their opinions into consideration and thought about the state-wide moratorium on fracking. She decided she is against the moratorium and wants fracking to come to Pennsylvania, and is in favor of emergency planning regulations on well sites, and keeping the wells a safe distance from water sources. She also said that fracking will bring economic opportunity.
The representatives and individuals were there to urge Baker to co-sponsor Senator Jim Furlo’s gas drilling moratorium legislation to halt future permitting of drilling until an independent study commission can determine if it is safe to move forward with it.
Wayne County has had a three-year moratorium, which has prevented gas drilling from coming to the area. Tension is rising over the moratorium, with pro-fracking group Northern Wayne Property Owners Association recently threatening a lawsuit against the DRBC to end it, and anti-frackers urging senators to support and continue the moratorium. The DCS website states, “By saying ‘no’ to a moratorium in PA – your state senator is saying ‘yes’ to unsafe, dangerous, and unproven fracking in PA.”
The goals of the state-wide “Independence from Fracking” were to increase the number of sponsors to Senator Ferlo’s fracking moratorium legislation, to showcase that a majority of Pennsylvanians now are against fracking, to increase the momentum the movement has now created and to show Senator Baker that her constituents do not want fracking in Wayne County, or anywhere in PA.
During the meeting, Barbara Arrindell, the director of DCS, presented known health and environmental risks that are a result of fracking. She said, “Does a business plan rule over public health?” She went on to respond to Baker’s assessment that fracking will bring in money, countering that it is a “boom and bust industry,” and that the majority of Pennsylvania residents will see no benefit from the supposed wealth. Later she said, “Lisa Baker was voted into office by people, not companies.”
At the end of the meeting, Yoniski said he will take all of their comments to Baker. Baker is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania State Senate who has represented the 20th District since 2007. Her term expires in 2014.
Zinnes said that they may not have changed Baker’s vote, but “We informed and showed how much we care. We showed her that the opposite viewpoint is not the only one.” In addition to wanting Baker to support a moratorium, Zinnes said, “We would also love for her to help provide adequate funding for the DEP, to support legitimate health, economic and social studies of the effects of fracking, for her to read carefully all the articles and reports we are sending her, and to push PA towards a sustainable and renewable energy future.”