That was the campaign tagline someone suggested in the "How to Keep Them Out" strategy session of the 2010 National People's Oil and Gas Summit in Pittsbugh, PA (Nov. 19 and 20, 2010). I jotted it down because I thought it would be a fitting slogan to allude to a campaign to slow, stop, and antagonize the oil and gas industry. After all, for me, living in Philadelphia, gas drilling is about MY water, MY tax dollars, MY politicians. It is about others (presumably YOUR) woods, prairie, and mineral rights, and it has a profound impact on OUR public lands, OUR Congress, OUR health, OUR community, and OUR democracy.
Much of what happened at the People's Oil and Gas Summit centered around the idea of building our connection to one another to protect what is all of ours. Veteran activists from the West (CO, MT, OR, WY, ND etc.) shared their organizing strategies and experiences of living in a drilled territory with those of us in the East sitting atop the Marcellus Shale gas formation (the most recently targeted shale gas formation located beneath OH, PA, NY and WV). From New Mexico we learned how the Western Environmental Law Center and its incredible local allies won permanent protection for the Valle Vidal; from Colorado we heard about acts of determined resistance - landowners standing in front of bulldozers, and from Texas we heard how the town of Dish completed an independent study that is driving one gas facility to shut down. This exchange was a great start.
We need to feed each other information, share campaign and media strategies, political connections, online mapping tools, health experts, citizen science program models, ordinance templates; lend emotional support, legal help, and donate money. Everything.
As the Westerners counseled those of us in the East, we'll need to keep organizing, we'll need to be tireless, and we'll need to draw on every resource we have. We'll need to pool our interests and our messages, that is to use our common interests and most powerful messages, as a resource because the gas industry's deep drilling has shaken our democratic foundation. The gas industry exists almost outside the law, its profit margins unhindered by abiding by the regulatory framework that supports every other extractive industry (ie Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund Law, some waste treatment laws etc). The industry is exempted from disclosing what chemical mixture it injects underground, and it seems to hand out non-disclosure agreements with a careless ease. It can use eminent domain to site and permit its pipelines, and then overnight turn LNG import terminals into export terminals. No need to recognize that pipelines transporting gas for export could not have been sited with eminent domain since there is no public benefit. In the West the industry took advantage of Split Estate law. In the East it is clamoring for forced pooling. Ducking accountability measures, pursuing land grabs, and hiding behind proprietary information clauses, these nasty habits of the gas industry degrade environmental quality and democratic integrity.
We are in the thick of a democratic unraveling with the WikiLeaks backlash and fewer than two months out from the inauguration of a new Pennsylvania Governor and State Legislature. Reflecting on common interests, versatile messages, and an utterly invasive industry; I think it is time to attack the power, influence, and reputation of the gas industry AND campaign for our rights within a democracy. Time to request that we know what is in our water and on our land. Time to assert that we can make the rules, that the industry follows the rules, and that we do, in fact, have control over our communities. Time to campaign for what is Mine. Yours. Ours.