People's Gas and Oil Summit in Pittsburgh

For those of you who haven't watched Gasland, I would strongly recommend checking it out. Besides the cool shots and excellent banjo accompaniments, the story at the heart of the film is extremely compelling and well told. There are honest and admirable protagonists in the movie, as well as shadowy corporations. The movie was created by Josh Fox, self-described child of hippy parents who built a house in the woods of North Eastern Pennsylvania where he now lives. Josh first encountered fracking through a letter in the mail offering him around $100,000 total for the right to drill on his land. Fox, unsure about this financial proposal, sets out to find more information. He starts out with a town near him where drilling is already underway and ends up embarking on trips to Wyoming, Texas and other highly drilled areas in the country.

When Fox made the movie, he had to travel all across the country to find the type of information he was looking for, from personal experiences to empirical data, it was all scattered. Luckily for those of us interested in the movement, Earthworks.org decided to hold the National People's Oil and Gas Summit in Pittsburgh this year, consolidating many of the people and resources which Fox tracked down in the making of his film. We also had the pleasure of meeting other allies, researchers, and activists not mentioned in the film, and the filmmaker himself (while Fox couldn't be physically there because he was on shoot in Australia, he did take time to skype with us, from a park).

The summit was right in the heart of the Marcellus Shale Natural gas drilling boom region this year, though it is normally held in the west. This served as a stark reminder to all in attendance that the natural gas battle has spread across the country. There were many great speakers and panels, and the range of topics covered was pretty widespread. Here is a list from Earthworks themselves:



  • The BIG PICTURE – where are they drilling, why and who’s next?

  • Natural gas, CLIMATE JUSTICE and PUBLIC HEALTH: life cycle impacts of gas

  • Hydraulic FRACTURING: Full Disclosure, NO Exemptions

  • To lease or not to LEASE; landowner and mineral owner rights

  • CLIMATE CHANGE: Beyond coal, oil and gas: what is our ENERGY FUTURE?

  • MEDIA: reforming the industry one blog, story, movie and wiki at a time

  • Legislate, Litigate, AGITATE: lessons on organizing and civil disobedience

The conference was packed with information. From excellent economic analysis on the market for natural gas, to strategies, to the personal stories shared by some of the brave speakers. We even had an oil industry insider -- granted, he was quietly mocked and booed by polite summit goers, due to his lukewarm stance on gas drilling. I was really blown away by how much I was learning. Although sometimes that new knowledge came at the cost of feeling down or overwhelmed, being surrounded by so many activists and people who care was fantastic.

If you are interested in more information about Marcellus Shale, Hydrofracturing, or Natural Gas, here are some links that might pique your fancy.

  • On our site you can check out an entire section devoted to Natural Gas at. http://www.energyjustice.net/naturalgas

  • You can also check out our mapping feature on our site: http://www.energyjustice.net/map, which not only provides you locations of current operating Natural Gas drilling sites, but also proposed and expanding sites and a plethora of other information

  • At the conference there was actually a panel (Web-based Tools for Information Sharing and Documentation) devoted to some other really great ways that people were using the internet and technology to expose fracking sites, landmen, etc.

    • http://www.fractracker.org/ which also deals with mapping fracking sites

    • http://civic.mit.edu/projects/c4fcm/extract-landman-report-card an MIT related project that creates a community for fracked people, and has come up with a report card for landmen. This is really important because it allows locals to share their experience dealing with the landmen. It also gathers all these experiences into really practical data. So that rather than having anecdotal evidence in the fight, we can actually translate it into empirical data, which can be used to change minds and inspire activism.

  • Even thought you may not have been there, you can still get some really great information from people like Wilma Subra, personally, on your computer, just by checking out the speaker's power point presentations online at: http://earthworksaction.org/2010SummitAgenda.cfm#PANEL4

  • Video was taken during the Summit, in which all the speakers were filmed. The summit organizers still haven't decided if they are going to put up the video on youtube or if they are going to release it in DVD form. Either way, for more updates about that I would check back here:


  • Lastly you can hear coverage of the Summit thanks to Rustbelt radio, which covered two stories:

    Audio posted by Pittsburgh Indymedia: Rustbelt Radio Collecti to Pittsburgh Indymedia (54.5 mebibytes)


And of course for all of your other Energy Justice Needs come back to us here at Energy Justice Network.

--This has been Ljubica Sarafov, campus and community organizer for PA, signing off!