Last Sunday nearly 100 Earth First! activists and locals shut down a shale gas drilling site in Pennsylvania for 12 hours. The blockade of the EQT site in Pennsylvania’s Moshannon State Forest was trying to stop the further destruction of Pennsylvania’s state forests — more than half of which have already been leased for drilling — and call attention to the devastating effects of fracking on the state’s communities.
This is the first time that protesters have shut down a shale gas drilling operation in the US and follows an intensification of anti-fracking actions in the US in recent weeks.
Earth First! activists blockade of shale gas drilling site in the Moshannon State Forest in Pennsylvania (Note next blockade further down road in background)
The blockade began with two tree sitters blocking the well pad access road, with their anchor lines crossing the road so that if either line was cut the sitter would fall. Barricades were then constructed out of fallen tree branches to block the road.
Tree sit anchors blockading frack site in Moshannon State Forest, Pa.
Drilling for natural gas in state forests is controversial. Although the state has leased out mineral rights in state forests since 1947, the Marcellus Shale boom has meant a rapid expansion of industrial activity on state land. More than 700,000 acres of forest land have already been leased – about twenty percent of that for Marcellus pads. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources predicts more than 1,000 drilling rigs may dot the forests, once production is at full capacity. Many feared Gov. Corbett would expand drilling in the forests, but his 2012–2013 budget did not include any plans to lease out additional state forest land for natural gas drilling.
Last Sunday’s blockade was the latest in a series of actions targeting the destructive impacts of fracking in the Marcellus Shale. In June, seven families, along with dozens of supporters, blocked the entrance to the Riverdale Mobile Home Community to prevent their imminent eviction at the hands of Aqua America PVR. Aqua sought to destroy their homes and construct a water withdrawal facility permitted to extract up to three million gallons of water from the Susquehanna River daily for use in fracking. Residents were able to maintain the blockade for 12 days.
The last six months has seen an escalating show of resistance on both sides of the Atlantic.
Last November, Frack Off activists employed similar tactics to those used in Pennsylvania with a rig-occupation halting work at a Cuadrilla Resources site in Lancashire. The activists are CURRENTLY on trial. Less than a month later Bristol-based activists shut down operations at the drilling site again and last month in Chesterfield access to Cuadrilla’s drill was blocked for a third time.