The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) rally on Tuesday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is over and the buses have taken their "supporters" home. Business as usual has resumed and we at the Sierra Club are getting back to doing the good work to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
It was an interesting rally to say the least. With folks bused in from around the state, paid a day's wages, provided a box lunch, American flags, and snazzy t-shirts, it was tough to see who the target was. From what I could gather, it was a group of folks recruited to make the point that they are totally alright with the environmental consequences (dire) of fracking as long as the member organizations of the MSC can make absurd profits. It's easy to get numbers when you pay people to show up. Classic astroturf.
So let's be clear, there are a few things that are needed to reset the conversation.
The consequences of the "shale gas boom" in Pennsylvania have been devastating. Drinking water has been permanently fouled, air quality has been severely damaged, forests have been fragmented, invasive species are multiplying, truck traffic on rural roads has been increased (taxpayers pay the tab...), our public lands are being threatened by the drill, political control over community decisions has been clamped down on, and property values across the board have decreased.
Unfortunately, we've also seen renewable energy projects displaced, transparency in our government decrease, and a host of other horribles appear - including the climate impacts of methane leaking from drill sites, pipelines and power plants.
We didn't hear too much about these consequences at the rally on Tuesday. For good reason - the member organizations of the MSC are making a killing at the bank and they want to whip up an astroturfed show of support to keep those profits coming in. That's a raw deal for Pennsylvania and the planet.
Remember, we all live downstream.
Shale gas is a bridge to nowhere and the costs associated with its extraction are just too great to continue to allow these companies to spend enormous sums on political campaigns and purchase the regulatory environment that they want. Environmental destruction is their Achilles heel. Political donations are their regulatory lubricant. We see that and we push back.
The Sierra Club is devoted to protecting our environment from the fossil fuel industry. Whether it's through fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, our Beyond Coal Campaign transitioning our energy sector to clean energy, or protecting Our Wild America from the threat of increased drilling, we will continue to stoke public pressure, lobby, litigate and support this movement for greater public participation and control over the decisions that affect our air, water and planet.