This summer youth have gathered in the shale gas region of Northeastern Pennsylvania to facilitate trainings, compile reports, and to fight for the safety of landowners, workers, and the environment.
Energy Justice Summer is based in Susquehanna County in order to directly connect with the community members impacted by shale gas development. The program consists of three working teams: research, education and outreach, and community organizing.
Charlotte Lewis, a research team member, Scranton native and student at Lackawanna College said, “Rural communities in Pennsylvania are changing from farmland to gas land. When this source of energy is depleted, what industry will we have left to sustain us?”
Lewis and her team members have drafted a socioeconomic impact report focusing on poverty indicators and the decline of farm-related income in rural counties with high-volume drilling.
The preliminary findings, based on data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, show that counties free of shale gas wells that use at least 15 percent of their acreage as operating farms earned 13.5 percent more from their commodity sales per farm than those in counties with over 100 wells drilled.
The report also explores the rise of free and reduced school lunch eligibility in school districts with high density drilling. For example, according to the PA Department of Education, 5 out of 6 school districts in Susquehanna County have seen an increase in eligibility in the past five years; at the same time, over 950 shale gas wells have been drilled.
Another series of reports created by the research team includes the history of environmental violations committed by Shell, a international crude oil & gas company. This will be followed by two more reports focusing on Cabot Oil & Gas, and Chesapeake Energy.
Sarita Farnelli, education and outreach team member, and a student who grew up in Dimock, PA said, “Fracking made my family's water undrinkable. I'm still afraid to drink our tap water.”
Events hosted by the education and outreach team have included a free water quality monitoring workshop in collaboration with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring at Dickinson College at Salt Springs State Park. In addition, trainings on environmental violations analysis, regulatory appeals, and community organizing.
On top of scheduling workshops in Susquehanna County, the community organizing team has worked with residents of Milford Township, PA to halt the compressor station planned for NiSource's East Side Expansion Project. The 9,400 horsepower compressor would connect the Tennessee and Columbia pipelines and is proposed to be built in the vicinity of local homes, schools, and senior centers—despite the threat of respiratory diseases or cancer contributed by venting emissions.
When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to schedule a hearing to answer questions and concerns of local community members, Energy Justice Summer and Clean Air Council teamed up to hold a public hearing on July 9th at the Pike County Public Library in Milford. As a result of this successful meeting, the DEP planned a hearing at 7 pm. on August 18th, at the Delaware Valley High School in Westfall Township.
The organizing team has also directed their energy to the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project. The Williams Company Inc. extension would connect to the Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas export terminal and will cross new territory in Susquehanna, Wyoming, Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon, Lancaster, Clinton and Luzerne counties.
Energy Justice Summer Fellows have met with landowners on the pipeline route to distribute information about the FERC regulatory process and landowner rights. The team is scheduling follow-up landowners' meetings in September with residents who may lose building lots, fruit trees, sugar maple groves, timber sales, and pasture land if the pipeline is approved.
Spencer Johnson, from Lancaster, PA, writer, and graduate of Franklin and Marshall College said, “There are a lot of stories and articles about fracking, but to be here on the frontlines, to be in it...the people we are working with are our friends, we want our friends to be protected.”
Johnson has written a series of stories based on the testimonials from residents whose health and livelihood have been effected by unconventional shale gas infrastructure, in collaboration with a professional photographer and videographer, Max Grudzinski and Crystal Vander Weit. An interactive web project featuring the stories, photos, and videos of Johnson's team is currently being designed.
The team of Energy Justice Summer also includes: Adam Hasz, Alex Lotorto, Allison Petryk, Collin Rees, and Maria Langholz. Energy Justice Summer is a joint project between Energy Justice Network and SustainUs. Energy Justice Network is a non-profit organization committed to providing resources to grassroots organizing groups battling environmental degradation throughout the nation. SustainUS is an internationally-networked nonprofit organization dedicated to offering tools of social and environmental justice to further young peoples' goals toward sustainable development.