When people ask me why I got involved in the anti-fracking movement, I tell them that I came for the water and stayed for the climate. I’d been in the movement about a year when Cornell’s Tony Ingraffea and Bob Howarth, along with their colleague Renee Santoro, published their letter on methane’s role in global warming and were among those named Time Magazine’s “People Who Mattered” for their efforts.
It was the same year that former governor Ed Rendell and his former DEP chief John Hanger wrote this in a letter to the New York Times in response to the landmark “Drilling Down” series by Ian Urbina, “If the goal of your report about natural gas drilling was to gratuitously frighten Pennsylvanians, then congratulations on a job well done. If it was to deliver an evenhanded examination of the critical balance that must be achieved between job creation, energy independence and environmental protection in regions with large natural gas deposits, then it was a mighty swing and a miss.” They’d been triggered by Urbina’s data on radioactivity in drinking water in PA. Hanger blogged about it, calling Urbina’s report “deliberately false.”
I’d come to expect my former governor and top environmental regulator to do the industry’s bidding by that time. It didn’t take long for me to realize after I got involved in the movement that I’d spend more of my time fighting my government than fighting the industry. So it came as no surprise when Hanger attacked Ingraffea and Howarth for their “junk science gas paper.”
A dozen years later in Pennsylvania, we’re still fighting to get our government to take radioactivity in our water and methane in our atmosphere seriously. Sometime along the way, I appended my line about why I got involved in the movement. I added that I’ve stayed with it because of the democracy problem we have in this state.
In 2018, frontline and grassroots organizations came together to found the Better Path Coalition. At our kick-off rally nearly four years ago, we came with no asks of our government. Instead, we rallied in the Capitol rotunda to announce to our government that we were committed to forging a better path to a clean, renewable energy future and a government that is responsive to its people.
We knew that standalone actions have little impact, that it takes sustained actions to make change. We wanted to be the drumbeat. We were doing a pretty good job of it. And then the pandemic hit.
Like everyone else, we struggled at first to figure out how to do our work if we couldn’t be together in our communities or in Harrisburg. We’ve found ways to organize online and have even been in Harrisburg a couple of times.
But it’s not enough.
“It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”
Pennsylvania’s government is nowhere near taking half measures. The report came out the same day that the Delaware River Basin Commission closed its comment period on proposed regulations that would give the greenhouse gas industry the two things it needs – a place to get clean water for fracking and a place to dump its waste. Days earlier, we learned that PA led in natural gas production growth in 2021. And when our government should be prompted by the IPCC report to take aggressive steps to phase out greenhouse gas production, rather than allow it to keep growing, our elected officials are cheering the soon to be online Shell cracker plant and the proposed Nacero gas to gasoline refinery, while preparing to turn western PA in to a snake oil solution fantasy land of Carbon Capture and Storage and Blue Hydrogen. Every one of those projects means more production and business as usual for the companies that are robbing people of their health and even their lives today and robbing the next generation and every generation thereafter of their future.
We need to be in Harrisburg in big numbers to demand climate action NOW!
We need to be there with our families. We want the voices of the young who are inheriting an increasingly uninhabitable planet to be the loudest.
We need to be there if our issue isn’t fracking, but PFAS chemicals or immigration or plastics or divestment or environmental justice or so many others. They are all climate issues.
We need to be there if we’ve worried about climate change, but have never known or maybe even believed that we could do anything about it. Bill McKibben just referenced Stanford professor Mark Jacobson’s analysis from last December that shows we have ninety-five per cent of the technology required to produce a hundred per cent of America’s power needs from renewable energy by 2035, while keeping the electric grid secure and reliable.” We have everything we need except a courageous government.
We can change that. But we need to do it together and we need to do it in Harrisburg.
That’s why I’m going to the Pennsylvania Climate Convergence. Please join me!
Karen Feridun, Co-founder, Better Path Coalition