Some 30 protesters gathered at a small farm in New Castle Monday to protest a nearby unconventional gas well. Maggie and Dale Henry operate the organic farm, and fear fracking could put their operation out of business. Anti-fracking advocates are concerned about the numerous abandoned wells in the area.
“You have the risk of an explosion from methane coming to the surface as well as [methane] getting into shallow groundwater aquifers which farmers like Maggie and Dale rely on for not only their drinking water, but for their animals,” said Ben Fiorillo with Shadbush Environmental Justice, which helped organize the protest.
The protesters did attract the attention of about 30 state troopers, along with a state police helicopter. But no arrests were made, and Jessica McPherson, also with Shadbush, said the protest was peaceful, the group was just trying to get their message out.
“We support local agriculture, and we’re concerned that this industry threatens its viability,” said McPherson, “a number of people drove past us, a number were curious, some people stopped and told us they had experienced water contamination and wanted to know how that happened and that they knew of more instances of other people with water contamination.”
Monday’s protest came on the heels of a weekend-long training at the Henry Farm. It brought together some 80 organizers from around the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions to examine strategies in community organizing and non-violent direct action to protest fracking. McPherson said agriculture is a big part of the state’s economy and should be protected.
“Is Shell going to be around in a couple of generations?” She asked, “for future generations, I think farming is a much better bet than drilling.”
The Marcellus Shale Coalition maintains fracking is safe, and will not have adverse effects on nearby farms and housing developments. From their website: “the tightly-regulated development of clean-burning American natural gas is safe, proven and aggressively regulated. That said, our industry is committed to ensuring we’re leveraging the best practices and most environmentally-proven technologies available. The protection of our air and water is not only in our business interest, but most importantly, we live, work and raise our families in these communities and have an unmatched commitment to protecting our environment to generations to come.”