This letter is from Spencer, a young person working with Energy Justice Summer in Northeast, Pennsylvania.
Greetings from the frontline shale fields of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania,
My name is Spencer Johnson and I’m working with a grassroots group called the Energy Justice: Shale Initiative in Montrose, Pennsylvania, where the gas industry has been hard at work since 2007. Gas pads, compressor stations, and infrastructure surround us on all sides, frack trucks block the roads, we gather our water from an artesian well because we cannot trust our tap––we are truly on the front lines of the war against fracking.
Over the past three months, my teammates and I have been compiling agricultural, socioeconomic, and violation reports with regard to the shale gas industry. We’ve held over a dozen workshops to teach folks how to run social media campaigns, lead direct action trainings, write press releases, organize in their communities, and fight back against extreme extraction in the form of fracking and drilling for shale gas methane.
Personally, I’ve spent the past four months writing in-depth investigative testimonials of impacted landowners who’ve seen nothing but lies, deception, and problems from the gas industry. My project, entitled Stories From The Shale: Pennsylvania (website coming soon), consists of images, videos, and written testimonials that’ve shown me the behind-the-curtain look at the gas industry that you’ll never see mentioned in media press conferences or tele ads. The evidence and documents I’ve seen cannot be re-created and to see some of the chemicals and substances found in the water wells of my friends and community members is somewhat unbelievable. Benzene, toluene, butane, acetone, lithium, barium, and strontium are among them. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic at every level of exposure and none of them should be found in drinking water aquifers. What’s more, is that the governmental agencies meant to protect these people are severely lacking in action and in most cases they support the industry they are supposedly regulating.
I cannot include everything these landowners, now my friends, have said, but if you want the words from them, stay tuned for the Stories From The Shale: Pennsylvania project, which contains it all. Suffice it to say: Pennsylvania should be the example for any country, state, municipality, etc. that wants to explore the idea of shale gas extraction. Beware of the articles that state “there aren’t enough health studies to show what’s happening with fracking,” because from what I’ve seen over the past several months, the studies are in and there are no positives. Sure, the industry will tell you you’re gonna be rich. They’ll tell you you’ll be a “shaleionaire,” but they don’t tell you your property value, royalty payments, and health will decline over time. They don’t tell you that thousands of fracking trucks will pass by your house daily, destroying the roads and rendering sleep itself a faraway dream. They don’t tell you about the fine print of the contract the land man is smiling about. They don’t take into account what will happen to landowners. They don’t care about you.
For those who say energy independence is worth it, I implore them to stand next to a hundred fifty foot gas flare for thirty minutes, breathing in the migraines and listening to the sound of the jet engine flare at full-speed. For those who say fracking is safe for the children, I invite them to stand next to the silica sand transfer station, twenty miles away from my house, and watch the sand (notorious for causing silicosis) whirl around in the air, behind a daycare center with children outside at play. For those who say water cannot be contaminated by the drilling or fracking process, I will pay for the ticket that brings you to the United States to Dimock, Pennsylvania, where my good friend Ray Kemble’s water changes color daily and burns the nostrils, causing dry spells, fainting, and permanent body rashes.
We are being sacrificed in Pennsylvania. Others, throughout the U.S. and the world, enjoy the gas that is piped out of our state, not knowing about the horrors that this industry hides behind clever campaign ads and political donations. Heed the warning from the frontlines. Ban Fracking Now. Everywhere you can. Before it’s too late.
According to scientists, methane leakage from fracking wells is anywhere from 3.6 percent to 7.9 percent. Methane is 86 times worse than coal over a 20 year time scale. The climate cannot continue to support this extreme extraction or the extraction of any similar fossil fuel. The technology exists to build a clean energy economy. We can retrofit our houses. We can support green jobs that help to build our clean energy future. We can stop fracking the earth, blasting apart our mountains, and poisoning our water. We can transition workers, transition our political systems, and transition our mentalities to conserve and protect rather than exploit and destroy. We have the necessary tools, we need only the political will to make a difference, the passion to speak for the animals and trees, the power to speak for the children of future generations. And the time to act is now. We on the front lines support you and commend your work. Keep pushing, keep fighting, keep winning.
In solidarity and peace,
Spencer on behalf of the The Energy Justice: Shale Initiative team