Press & Sun-Bulletin Guest Viewpoint: Pa. county shows possible dangers of fracking

Written by Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Kathleen Nolan

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo sends Health Commissioner Nirav Shah around the country to look at the health impacts of fracking, we hope he is looking at Washington County, Pa. Early results from an on-the-ground public health assessment indicate that environmental contamination is occurring near natural gas drilling sites and is the likely cause of associated illnesses.

This is alarming. According to this assessment, in one small county of about 200,000 people, 27 people thought they were getting sick and went to a single rural health clinic and fracking was determined to be a plausible cause.

Since drilling has only been going on for six years, it does not include chronic illnesses that can take years to manifest.

While the industry points to these numbers and says it’s “only” 27 people, the presence of any people gives a lie to industry claims that fracking is “safe.”

The 27 cases documented by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project team are not a surveyed sample of the region’s population, nor were they recruited to be part of a study. They are patients from a single rural clinic who came in seeking help. As such, these early figures could easily be the leading edge of a rising wave of human injury.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY
Steingraber is a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, and Nolan is a physician and bioethicist working with Catskill Mountainkeeper.

‘Same River’ Comes to Sullivan County!

Same River Poster

Catskill Mountainkeeper is excited to be a part-sponsor of the upcoming performance of ‘Same River’ at NACL Theatre*!

Same River is an improvised, inter-disciplinary performance based on local residents about water and the effects fracking has on communities.

The show will be at NACL Theatre in Highland Lake on Sunday, September 8th, at 4:00 pm and will be performed by The Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble.

Tickets are limited, so be sure to get yours’ today!

When: Sunday, September 8th, at 4:00 pm
Where:  NACL Theatre, 110 Highland Lake Rd, Highland Lake, NY

Strike Anywhere was founded in NYC in 1997 to promote empathy, free-thinking, and greater social awareness through provocative theatre and educational outreach.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick conversation with SAPE’s Artistic/Producing Director, Leese Walker about the show. Here is some of what she had to say:

CMK: Why did you all decide to create a show focused on the community impacts of fracking?

LWI first learned about fracking when we were invited to perform at NACL’s 10th Annual Catskill Festival of New Theatre in 2010.  We were working on a new format for interdisciplinary improvisation and so I asked NACL’s Artistic Director, Tannis Kowalchuk, if there were any themes running through the festival programming that year.  She responded, “Water.  Definitely water.”  So I thought, “OK let’s make a show about water”.  I asked about local water issues and several people mentioned fracking.   I knew very little about it at that time.  As an ensemble, we researched the process and surrounding issues and came to do an intensive residency in the area.   I had never done an interview-based process before and had been waiting for the right project to come along to employ it.  This seemed perfect.  That first foray into the show SAME RIVER in 2010 was a bold experiment in using an interview process to launch an improvised show.  When we started, we thought the show was about water and fracking.   As we dug in deeper over the last 3 years, we discovered that the show is really about how drilling has impacted communities and relationships.  Water is still present in the show. The dancer who plays the character of water serves as a witness throughout the piece. 

CMK: You interviewed a wide range of people from our communities to create the basis of the show. How did you connect with these people and what was the interview process like?

LWWe perform a residency in conjunction with this show on every stop of our tour.  Having this time in the community allows us to conduct new interviews in each place and custom design the show to reflect the host community.  When we were here three years ago, the show was totally improvised.  Now we have a set structure and characters that are present in every performance but the actual dialogue within those scenes is improvised based on the interviews.  NACL, our host, served as the liaison.  They connected us with different community members so we could gather a wide range of voices for the piece.
The interview process this time around was particularly special because we have been here before and we met with many of the same people that we met with three years ago.  It has been interesting to see how things have changed and what has stayed the same.  It has been wonderful to reconnect with people and I can’t wait to show them how much the show has evolved since 2010.  We have a beautiful production now replete with video projections, stunning lighting design and costumes – if you haven’t seen it before, we are a company of jazz musicians, dancers and actors so the piece is interdisciplinary. 

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CMK: What were the biggest surprises/challenges that arose while collecting these stories?

LWWell, the biggest surprise has probably been to discover how multifaceted people are- all the shades of gray, the conflicting ideas within each person.  Another surprise has been to hear some of the same language coming from the mouths of the most polarized voices on the spectrum, similar phrases or similar examples to prove their point.   It is funny to me.  The project has helped me to humanize viewpoints I disagree with.  I hope it will do the same for audience members. 

CMK: The performances are very audience-driven and participatory. How much has this impacted the tone and content of each performance?

LWEvery incarnation of Same River is different.  It really takes on the flavor of each place that we visit.  We try to capture the conversation.  So naturally, the tone and content morphs and changes to reflect the communities we visit.
We also use a variety of community engagement strategies wherever we go.  We figure out what the host would like to accomplish and custom design an approach to meet those needs.  In past incarnations of the show, we have performed extended residencies in high schools in conjunction with the show http://www.strikeanywhere.info/videos.cfm?VID=wXwVPx1D_2M.  We have had students craft new scenes and join us on stage. We have had community members come out and help us build the set.  At one high school, students worked with an installation artist to create an interactive, large-scale art installation which served as the first act of the show.  We always include a post-show town hall discussion.  This is really important to us because the point of the show is to instigate discussion.  We have found that in a lot of the places we visit, communication has broken down. We hope that by authentically presenting multiple voices on stage we can promote empathy and help to heal divides.

*NACL Theatre is a professional, not-for-profit company that has created over 15 original and ensemble theatre productions since 1997.  To learn more about NACL, and to learn about ways you can support the theatre, please visit their website here.

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WELCOME TO THE TRAILKEEPER NETWORK PROGRAM OF CATSKILL MOUNTAINKEEPER
The Trailkeeper Network is dedicated to promoting public awareness of hiking trails and outdoor resources.  Click here to visit the Trailkeeper Network website.

The newest project of the Trailkeeper Network is the the Sullivan County Trailkeeper.
Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 1.46.45 PMCatskill Mountainkeeper and its partners the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, the Sullivan County Visitors Association, and Morgan Outdoors, with assistance from the Upper Delaware Council, Sullivan Renaissance, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the National Park Service, Sullivan County Community College Hiking Class, and many volunteers have created TrailKeeper.org, a one-source resource for hiking trails and local area attractions and amenities in Sullivan County, NY.

TrailKeeper.org contains area trail maps, hiker hints, tips and photos, recommendations for specific trails , information about local shops, lodgings, restaurants and attractions.  It makes Sullivan County’s extensive network of trails, some of the finest in New York State, more accessible and promotes the Catskills as an attractive destination for eco-tourists.  The trail information matches hikers to trails, whether you are a seasoned hiker looking for a challenge or a beginner testing your hiking legs for the first time. Its easy-to-read, easy-to-access maps, facilities information and guides make hiking safer, more accessible and more fun.

Whether you are a resident or visitor we encourage you to use TrailKeeper.org to get out and explore this special part of the Catskills.

JOIN CATSKILL MOUNTAINKEEPER AND NEW YORKERS AGAINST FRACKING TO TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA AND GOVERNOR CUOMO DON’T FRACK WITH OUR CLIMATE!

This week is a very important moment for us to tell President Obama in person the truth about fracking – that it can’t be done safely, it poisons water and people, and it spells disaster for the climate. Unfortunately, President Obama has turned a blind eye to the science on fracking and the thousands of victims across the country.

Now, President Obama is doing a two-day bus tour through upstate New York, and we’re organizing to rally outside of his events to demand no fracking in New York, the Delaware River Watershed, or anywhere in America. This is a really important opportunity to stand up for the people of Wyoming, Texas, Pennsylvania and all the people in the U.S. who have had their air, their water and their very lives fouled by the oil and gas industry.  Please do everything you can to join us in Binghamton!

These are the details we have:

Buffalo:
 Thursday morning, August 22 at the University of Buffalo Alumni Arena. Click here to join the Facebook event page.

Syracuse: Thursday, August 22. Click here to join the Facebook event page.

Binghamton: Friday morning, August 23 at Binghamton University. Click here to join the Facebook event page. We will be meeting next to the Glenn Bartle Library Tower on campus. It is the tallest building and is easy to spot, and should be visible to the media and hopefully the President’s motorcade.

We recommended parking at the Technology Center, 101 Murray Hill Road, between 8-8:30am. Finding parking after 9:30am will be very difficult.

There is the option to park on campus, but be forewarned: it will be difficult to find spaces. No cars are allowed in or out the main entrance from 10am-3pm and the two limited access points will probably be jammed.

This is going to be a long day. Please bring adequate food and water, comfortable clothing, and appropriate footwear.

Bring your signs, voices, and conviction that we can and will win a ban in New York State and eventually, nationally. The science, facts, truth, and best interests of all Americans are on our side, and it’s time the President stops acting under the influence of the oil & gas industry and instead takes heed of the science and truth.

Click here for a map of the University Campus, which details parking locations and the rally.

PRESIDENT OBAMA DON’T FRACK AMERICA! SIGN THE PETITION.

Tell the President and the BLM: Don’t Frack America’s Public Lands!

In his recent speech on climate change, President Obama announced his intent to rapidly increase domestic production of oil and gas. Part of his plan? To cooperate with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open 600 million acres of Federal and Native American land, including our national parks, for fracking.Please sign the petition below by Aug. 23, 2013. Tell the BLM: Don’t frack America’s public lands!

Also, on Aug. 21, please join hundreds of thousands of Americans for a national call-in day to President Obama. Call the President at 1-888-660-2594 and ask him to protect our public lands from fracking.

Most of the lands targeted for fracking are managed by the BLM, a federal agency that recently revised, and significantly weakened, its rules for fracking on public lands.

We should be protecting America’s cherished public lands, open spaces, historic structures, archaeological sites and iconic landscapes for future generations, not defiling them. These resources represent our shared history and an irreplaceable part of our national heritage.

But if President Obama and the BLM get their way, these cherished lands will be treated as nothing more than a commodity, to be exploited for profit by greedy, profit-hungry oil and gas companies.

Recent reports suggest that fracking is contaminating our groundwater with arsenic and other heavy metals. Is that the legacy we want to leave our kids?

Our only chance to stop President Obama and the BLM is to speak out, loud and clear, in large numbers.

Here are two ways you can help:

•    On Aug. 21, you can join Americans against Fracking for a national call-in day to President Obama. Call the President
at 1-888-660-2594. You can tell him: “Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend. We need to ban fracking now.” 

•    Until Aug. 23, the BLM is seeking public comments on its proposal to weaken the rules for fracking on public lands. Please sign the petition below by Aug. 23 asking the BLM to ban fracking on public lands, not weaken existing rules.

Fracking and farms cannot co-exist, as we’ve heard over and over from farmers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, West Virginia and Colorado – farmers whose lives and farms have been ruined by fracking’s methane emissions and toxic chemicals. As one farmer explained, “We depend on good water for our cows, our crops and our own health. Once you mess up your groundwater, you can’t fix it.”

Natural gas and oil development is already the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. The climate change footprint of natural gas, once the extraction process and the resulting methane is factored in, is worse than coal. (Methane is a greenhouse gas that is up to 105 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide).

According to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration, if we pursue natural gas as a central component of our energy portfolio as planned, we’ll suffer an increase in temperature of approximately 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2060.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION ON OUR PATNER’S SITE THE ORGANIC CONSUMER ASSOCIATION
These are our lands! It’s time to send a clear message to President Obama and the BLM: Fracking threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend.