By: Tejas Gosai
As I hastily fastened my Marcellus Shale Coalition badge onto my gray suit lapel, Ray Walker, Jr. of Range Resources and Honorable Tom Ridge, PA’s 43rd Governor, welcomed the natural gas elites to what can only be described as the “Prom” of the shale gas industry. Over a lavish 2-day Shale Gas Insight Conference, the Marcellus Shale Coalition hosted top natural gas industry leaders, executives, politicians, exhibitors, vendors, businesses, prominent media outlets, 1600 registered participants, and me for an all out Marcellus Party in the truly sweet city of Philadelphia.
Please click here for Northcentralpa.com’s very concise breakdown of the conference.
Or click here for news results from a Google search for “Shale Gas Insight Philadelphia”
It should be noted that the conference was a success and I genuinely enjoyed attending each presentation, formal event and exhibition, but rather than commenting about the actual conference, my experience outside the conference during the anti-fracking protest and anti-fracking conference was most notable about the trip.
While walking the hallways of Philadelphia’s massive convention center on the first day of the Shale Gas Insight Conference, I saw a flurry of suits peering down onto the streets. This was no midday gazing competition; they were looking at nearly 2,000 protesters with placards, megaphones, cameras, and microphones glaring up at them. At that point, I quickly weighed a luncheon with Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy, and John Surma, CEO of US Steel, against the raging scene outside, and I was out the door.
I feverishly snapped photo after photo, as this was my first protest and I was blown away with the volumes of Marcellus haters. The Marcellus Shale’s top anti-frackers took the stage and eloquently shouted/sang their hatred for the natural gas industry, movement, process, problems, greed and pollution. Even the “Jesus of Anti-Fracking” took the stage, Gasland creator, Mr. Josh Fox. Other speakers/artists included:
- Craig & Julie Sautner, Dimock, PA
- Blondell Reynolds Brown, Philadelphia City Councilwoman
- Curtis Jones, Philadelphia City Councilman
- Doug Shields, Pittsburgh City Council President
- Al Appleton, internationally respected water systems expert
- Iris Marie Bloom, Protecting Our Waters
- Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network
- Jim Walsh, Food and Water Watch
- David Braun, United for Action
Additionally, lifting our spirits in such serious times will be:
- Welcoming songs from the powerful Rev. Rhetta Morgan
- Rebel Diaz, bilingual political hip-hop
- Beth Nixon, West Philly’s comic genius
- The Band Called Fuse, underground rock & hip-hop
- Marc Black, living life one song at a time
Doug Shields, Pittsburgh City Council President, summed up the entire groups feeling with this (Video Link):
“And so it will be with this, this industry will leave us all with a legacy of woe and want and we’re gonna pay through the nose while they walk out with trillions of dollars out of this state.”
The rally became particularly interesting as the Marcellus Shale Coalition badge on my gray suit lapel notified many irate protesters that one of “them” is amongst their midst. Quick taps on the shoulders and a head flick in my badge’s direction gathered more and more protesters, and though I dexterously removed my badge, I was
surrounded. After a formal greeting and dissolving of the issues, I was invited to the Shale Gas Outrage conference, Freedom From Fracking: Building Strategies Together, the next day, an opportunity I could not miss. This was my chance to talk with people who hate the Marcellus Shale and I assured them that I would attend to elicit relevant statements and cover their event.
As I approached the Congregation Rodeph Shalom in North Philadelphia, I was warmly greeted and started getting the other sides’ perspective.
The conference agenda was as follows:
8:30 Registration Opens
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome & Introductions
- Welcome from Rabbi Eli C. Freedman
- Announcements from Conference Coordinators Lynne Iser & Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
9:15 – 10:30 Opening Plenary
- Sandra Steingraber, Keynote Address
- Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper
- Paul Rubin, Hydrologist & Hydrogeologist
- Jerry Silberman, Introduction to Moratorium Action Plan
- A. Allen, Protecting Our Waters
10:45 – 12:00 Concurrent Workshop Session
12:05 – 12:55 Lunch
1:00 – 2:15 Concurrent Workshop Session
2:30 – 3:45 Concurrent Workshop Session
4:00 – 5:00 Closing Plenary
- Josh Fox, Gasland
- Barb Jamoska, Responsible Drilling Alliance
- Moratorium Action Plan Updates
I was not permitted to attend the conference seminars, but I did speak with multiple protesters ranging from the focused concerned citizens to the serious full-time anti-frackers. Benjamin Ketchum, a young activists summed up his view on the conference by stating, “as an individual, I plan on moving this into the right direction, I support the organizations that letter write, but direct action needs to take place, the prominent feature of this movement as a whole is that this is big, and this is current and if we frame the argument properly in the public eye, we will do what it takes to stop fracking in America.”
A public gathering took place following the Shale Gas Outrage seminar including statements from Barb Jamoska, Responsible Drilling Alliance, and concluded with remarks from Josh Fox, Director of the Oscar-nominated “Gasland.” Josh fox riled the
crowd and stated that bigger things need to happen to solve these problems and get the politicians and media involved to make a louder noise. He encouraged everyone to stick together and keep the fight strong. I was in agreement when he stated that these two days were a powerful step in the right direction to properly regulate this industry and that the public sees upon the anti-fracking movement as a threat…but then he grabbed a banjo. Please click here for video of Josh Fox and the Banjo
I was almost in shock when I saw Josh Fox go from leading his people against the supposed “monster Marcellus,” to strumming his banjo, but when the sweet music of Josh Fox’s banjo hit my ears, I saw people stand up, clap, dance, and stomp. I couldn’t help but participate. I decided that rather than listening to the issues, we should just follow our pied piper and “believe”, be angry, scream out and take time off of work to attend protests. Then all 200 of us, including Josh Fox, held hands and sang “This Land is Your Land” for 7 minutes. It was magical and I felt great. But then I realized that this is the anti-fracking movement and from a rational standpoint, this was not the power points and graphs, scientists, and factual research that I use to make my decisions about the natural gas industry.
The fervor and zeal that Fox was preaching with was convincing and those who don’t necessarily educate themselves regarding “the opposition” can easily be swayed to believe anything. I did converse with protestors and activists who appeared to be more knowledgeable than their peers on research, politics, and legal issues but I feel that I can safely say there were only a handful of them. The witty, quirky slogans on t-shirts and signs are a great way to catch the attention of everyone in the vicinity but actual, educated debate was not present (at either conference). Seminars and workshops at the Shale Gas Insight Conference did recognize many of the negative issues associated with drilling but backed up their standpoint with research and statistics. I found this to be a significant difference between the two conferences and the way information is presented. Holding hands, singing songs, and dancing to banjo music are a fun way to spend an afternoon, but in my eyes negated all the speeches presented by the respected individuals in their fields. How can you take that seriously? Needless to say, both conferences were very interesting.