Change happens when we make it happen. In the case of fracking, that change currently happens state-by-state.
Last month, our victory in New York changed the dynamics of what is possible for the fracking movement. With Governor Cuomo’s bold decision to ban fracking, we took what had been a campaign slogan and turned it into a reality. Last week, we brought the momentum that started with a victory in Albany and transformed it into one of the issues on the top of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s radar.
Monday, a day before Wolf was inaugurated, we published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling on him to make stopping fracking a priority for his administration. Challenging Wolf to separate himself from former Governor Corbett’s failed policies on fracking, we wrote that Wolf was largely shaping up to be a continuation of the status quo: unchecked pollution and health risks from an unchecked industry.
We knew we would need more than just the facts to be heard by Wolf. So on Inauguration Day, we assembled more than 250 Pennsylvanians from all corners of the state at a church nearby the Capitol. We marched as a group to the Capitol, accompanied by Gasland’s Josh Fox, catching the attention of the legislators and reporters assembling at the inauguration site. Once the inauguration started, we took the demands spelled out in our op-ed the day before and chanted them directly to Wolf and all the attendees at the ceremony.
Attendees chanted “ban fracking now” with such volume it seemed our collective vocal cords would give out after a few minutes. But, as we went on, and reporters Tweeted that they were having trouble making out the content of Wolf’s remarks over our yells, we began to realize just how loud – and powerful – we really were. When all was said and done, we felt more confident than ever that Governor Wolf had truly heard us and internalized our strength.
Later in the week, Food & Water Watch released a report with Berks Gas Truth clarifying exactly why we had had so much trouble being heard by Wolf short of vocally taking over the inauguration: his ears had been clogged with money from the gas industry. Analyzing Wolf’s campaign finance reports, we found individuals, corporations and PACs associated with the gas industry totaled $1.5 million.
We have no illusions regarding how much work it will take to protect Pennsylvanians from fracking by winning a statewide halt. If anything, we now know exactly how much grassroots power we’ll need to show Wolf (roughly the equivalent of $1.5 million in industry payoffs.) But we know that by educating Pennsylvanians and engaging them, one by one, as a part of a statewide movement against fracking, we can win. And I am confident that with our leading partners in Pennsylvanians Against Fracking – Berks Gas Truth, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, and Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Air and Water – we have the commitment and motivation required to build what can be the most powerful –and most successful – coalition in the state.