Pennsylvania Fracking Debate Heats Up, As Protestors and Drillers Converge on Pittsburgh

Yesterday was declared World Protest Against Shale Gas Fracking by opponents of the natural gas drilling technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing. While protests were planned across the country and as far away as New Zealand, one of the most interesting was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh anti-fracking rally was held outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. At the very same time, the DUG East gas drilling industry conference was going on inside the convention center. That event featured Karl Rove, former White House Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush. One day after big Republican victories in the mid-term election, Rove was making equally big promises to the drillers assembled inside the convention center, including a promise that fracking would remain exempt from federal regulation.

“I don’t think you need to worry,” Rove said of the so-called Halliburton loophole, which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Rove said the newly elected GOP House will ensure the US Environmental Protection Agency will not be able to regulate fracking.

Outside, the fracking protestors had other ideas. According to a report on WPXI-TV, the protesters carried signs and banners reading, “No Fracking, No Way.”

“I’m out here because I’m a native Pittsburgher and I can remember when this city was very polluted and I don’t want to see it happen again,” protester Inima Minzey told WPXI.

“They’ll take the money and we’ll get stuck with all the problems that come along with this industry,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields. “We are the guinea pigs for the fracking business.”

Pennsylvania, which sets atop the natural-gas rich Marcellus shale, has become ground zero in the battle against fracking. The industry is now pushing to drill in the city of Pittsburgh, and some property owners there have already signed gas drilling leases. Shields is among Pittsburgh City Council members who have introduced an ordinance to ban fracking in the city limits, and the measure is slated to be debated today by the council today.

In several Pennsylvania communities, fracking has been blamed for contaminating drinking water wells. Just last week, a Bradford County woman filed suit against Chesapeake Energy over her contaminated well, alleging that nearby drilling allowed methane, ethane, barium and other harmful substances to enter her water supply. The plaintiff in that lawsuit is being represented by the national law firm of P<"">arker Waichman Alonso LLP; the Law Offices of Michael Gleeson, based in Archbald, Pennsylvania; Neblett, Beard and Arsenault of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Becnel Law Firm of Reserve, Louisiana.

The same group of attorneys filed another Pennsylvania lawsuit in September on behalf of a group of families in Lenox Township, located in Susquehanna County. The suit, which names Houston, Texas-based Southwest Energy Production Company as a defendant, also alleges that fracking contaminated the families’ water wells.

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