July 22nd the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held one of four public hearings for a study on Hydraulic Fracturing that will look for potential relationships between the process and drinking water resources. The EPA held the meeting in a Hotel in the the Southpointe Industrial Park near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which also happens to be the base for Chesapeake Energy, Columbia Gas Of Maryland Inc., CONSOL Energy Inc., EOG Resources Inc., Halliburton, Range Resources, and Reliant Energy. Over 1,000 attended the event according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The majority of the citizen speakers spoke out against the drilling practice and many called for a moratorium. Industry supporters described the outcry against the drilling process as “…anti-capitalist demonization and misinformation…“
Cecil Township Police were present at the event, including two K9 vehicles. Two officers were stationed at the public comment podiums so that they could, according to the night’s moderator from The Cadmus Group, Inc., escort those giving public comment back to their seats if they did not stop speaking immediately after their allotted 2 minutes expired. One hundred and thirty speakers gave their input to the EPA.
Bill Belitskus, Walt Atwood, and I attended the event along with many others concerned about the the oil and gas industry’s use of Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania. Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action, Peter Wray and Claudia Kirkpatrick of the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club, Nadia Steinzor of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, and the Green Party’s Mel Packer to name a few. Although Police and the the Hilton Garden Inn manager had no problem with an oil and gas industry demonstration on the sidewalk at the front entrance to the hotel, Police and the Hotel management chased an environmental coalition’s press conference around their grounds attempting to interfere with the press event (See Video). Clean Water Action’s Myron Arnowitt, who organized the event, eventually persuaded the Police to allow the group to speak with reporters.
Inside, we lined up with the others who wished to speak to get yellow bracelets with numbers showing the order in which we would share our comments with the EPA. Our numbers were keyed to our names and affiliations so that the moderator and the Police escorts could keep track of us as we stood in line waiting for our chance to speak. AP’s Marc Levy reported on some of those giving comments,
Darrell Smitsky said five of his goats died mysteriously and, even though state regulators told him the water was safe, his own test showed sky-high levels of manganese and iron. When he blamed the drilling company, he said, it responded, “Can you prove it?”
Photos By Bill Belitskus, Walt Atwood, Cathy Pedler