This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
The fight to protect communities from the water-polluting form of gas drilling known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") is moving quickly on several fronts, both local and national.
This week, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are wrapping up a multi-city public hearing tour on the controversial gas extraction technique, in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the Earth to force the gas from tightly packed shale deposits.
To give you an idea of how high interest has been: the last of these hearings — being held Sept. 15 in Binghamton, N.Y. — had to be postponed last month after officials realized they didn't have a space large enough to accommodate the expected 8,000-person crowd. EPA is collecting the testimony heard at these meetings to inform the agency's much-needed study into fracking's impact on drinking water.
Industry is gunning its engine at the New York border — where drilling in the Marcellus Shale deposit has yet to begin in earnest. (Live in New York? Ask the head of the state's environmental agency head not to issue gas drilling permits until the EPA study is complete.)
The good news is that those who drink water, breathe air, and eat food from local farms far outnumber the few who stand to benefit from rushed and irresponsible drilling. And people from all corners of the country are mobilizing to protect their lives and livelihoods.
In Pennsylvania, folks are readying for a Sept. 21 day of action to pressure the state legislature to institute a gas drilling moratorium and other protections. (Live in Pennsylvania? Sign up to attend the lobby day and rally here. ***This just in: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has clarified that it is your "God-given American right" to protest unsafe gas drilling in Pennsylvania. So now you have no excuses.)
In Wyoming, residents pushed for — and won! — disclosure of fracking chemical ingredients. It's a big first step that 1) will help scientists determine whether these chemicals are making their way into local water supplies, and 2) push industry toward the use of nontoxic products in the fracking process (Live in Wyoming? Thank the members of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission).
And nationwide, the critically acclaimed documentary Gasland is making its ways to theaters around the country, kicking off with a screening Sept. 15 in New York.
Is fracking coming to a shale deposit near you? Before the drill rigs roll in from Texas, educate your friends and neighbors. Organize a Gasland screening in your community. And ask your member of Congress to support federal protections.
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