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(en) US, Anarchist journal, Nor'easter #5 - Resisting Unconventional Gas Drilling in the Finger Lakes, Marcellus Shale By DISOBEY WAN KENOBI of Shaleshock Action Alliance

Date Mon, 01 Jun 2009 12:09:16 +0300

As fossil fuel resources reach their peaks, energy companies move toward the most
marginal, hard-to-get-to reserves, using the most intensive, destructive, toxic extraction
techniques. From the tar sands of Alberta to mountain-top removal in the coal fields of
Appalachia, the scope of violation to land and communities boggles the mind. ---- Now, we
in the Northeast are staring down the barrel of "unconventional" natural gas drilling in
the Marcellus Shale. Similar operations are occurring throughout the Rockies, Texas,
Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere, but in this article, I'll focus on the Northeast. ----
The Marcellus Shale stretches from Upstate New York through Pennsylvania, West Virginia
and eastern Ohio. It has been described as the Saudi Arabia of natural gas the third
largest natural gas field on the planet. Big players such as Exxon/Mobil, Halliburton,
Talisman, Chesapeake, Schlumberger and others are busily drilling in Pennsylvania and are
working their way through toothless regulatory agencies in New York, where they are
expected to begin drilling this summer. They also plan to construct between 50,000 and
100,000 five-acre wells ­ a massive industrialization of rural landscapes and lives
How It Works, in a Nutshell
"Conventional" gas drilling involves
variations on the theme of drilling into
a pocket of gas and sucking it up. The
Marcellus Shale, however, is a mass of
widely dispersed little bubbles of gas. As
such, it could not be obtained
until Halliburton created the
technology to literally shatter
the shale to break up the
bubbles. This technology, "High
Volume Horizontal Slickwater
Hydraulic Fracturing" (usually
referred to as variations of
"hydro-fracking" or just
"fracking"), involves two- to
nine-million gallons of water Jona
per "frack." Blended with this
are about 10,000 gallons of
toxic chemicals, which are sand-blasted
deep beneath the ground at very high
pressures for each "frack." Fracking may
occur up to 12 times over the life of a
well (up to 40 years). That water must be
trucked there (10,000-gallon tanker trucks,
plus nine-million gallons water/frack, plus
12 fracks, plus 100,000 wells equals lots of
trucks...), and it must be trucked away to
an as-of-yet unknown place when it has
become toxic waste.
The dangers involved include but are
not limited to: ground and surface water
contamination with chemicals and methane
(in Colorado, some folks can ignite their tap
water), chemical spills, massive removal and
toxification of fresh water from ecosystems,
air pollution and ground-level ozone exposure
(from constantly running diesel equipment)
and, of course, the perpetual question of
what to do with billions of gallons of toxic
waste. The chemicals involved are known
carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Serious
health effects have been reported by residents
in drilled areas.
The breakdown of communities and
local economies is not far behind all this
as neighbors blame each other and the
land becomes unfit for farming, tourism,
hunting, etc.
Shaleshock Action Alliance is a
decentralized, grassroots, consensus-based
environmental justice organization.
As small town people in rural areas, we
face this looming threat knowing that we
can't afford to isolate ourselves. The severity
of the devastation compels us to implement
a diversity of tactics. Shaleshock puts on film
screenings, hosts speakers, prints literature,
lobbies elected officials, organizes grassroots
water testing, works the regulatory channels,
works with other groups, designs and hosts
trainings and classes, and scrambles for
legal footing to buy time. And new projects
keep sprouting.
As a tactic, we also use what are called
listening projects, in which locals are asked
about their connections to the area, their
values, and what experiences, thoughts
and opinions they have with regards to
gas drilling issues. Listening projects are
not a new idea; they are currently used in
organizing against mountain-top removal
in Appalachia and were used extensively by
groups critical of nuclear weapons and U.S.
foreign policy during the 1980s.
In Upstate New York, we go door to
door in the areas that are to be drilled first
(those closest to pipelines) and listen to
what folks have to say. We have literature if
people want it, but we try not to proselytize.
Through this process, we become clearer
communicators and gain a ground-level
understanding of the complexity of this
issue in the microcosm of small-town life.
Listening projects reveal unlikely
alliances, challenge stereotypes, provide
information for other organizing, show
us our blind spots, identify allies and
inform our actions with a community-
based perspective. Listening projects
require listening skills, emotional I.Q.
and the humility to hear people out. If
we, as anarchists, wish to connect with
communities, we'll need more activities like
this informing our work.
We have also made use of innovative
facilitation methods during community
discussions such as "world cafés" a
conversational process meant to connect
people, groups and networks to make things
more participatory and self-organizational,
and to take conversations deeper.
For more information, please visit
Shaleshock.org and TheWorldCafe.
com. We'd also like to give props
to Rising Tide North America at
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