Don’t Expect Protection: Remarks of Stephen Cleghorn on Earth Day, April 22, 2013 outside the DEP regional office in Meadville, PA
THE LEGACY OF RACHEL CARSON
Allow me to speak first on this Earth Day of the legacy of Rachel Carson, daughter of Pennsylvania, author of the book Silent Spring, considered a founding mother of the modern environmental movement, heralded as the most influential voice that led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies like it.
Sadly, the legacy of Rachel Carson is now a dead letter in Pennsylvania given the cozy alliance between the shale gas industry and the state’s department that is supposed to protect Pennsylvania’s environment for future generations. We Don’t Expect Protection anymore from an agency that has become so corrupted and politicized that its core mission has been lost altogether. If Rachel were alive today, she’d ask that her name be removed from the building in Harrisburg where the Don’t Expect Protection political lackeys are headquartered, gathering their taxpayer-paid salaries to usher in the industrialization and destruction of one-half the land mass of Pennsylvania. And she’d be right here with us kicking DEP’s butt. Since she cannot be here, it is our job to stand up and kick DEP’s butt to protect Pennsylvanians.
DR. ENGELDER’S “DEGRADING THE QUALITY OF THE PLAY.”
Secondly, a few words about the grand poobah and chief apologist of the shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, Dr. Terry Engelder of Penn State University, the man whose “find” of trillions of cubic feet of gas in the Marcellus shale formation got the gas companies slobbering with a new-found gluttonous appetite for more profits from a greenhouse gas whose full exploitation worldwide will, according to the International Energy Agency, raise the planets’ temperature by six degrees Fahrenheit and render it uninhabitable for many species including our own. This same good Dr. Engelder once told me that there was no chance that environmentalists could (quote) degrade the quality of the play (unquote) and stop the development of the Marcellus. By “play” he meant not the shale formation itself, which is of course just rock, but the Wall Street financed financial gamble, which is of course just greed, that propels the blasting of methane out of it.
Well I have news for Dr. Engelder.
Investors are starting to turn away from shale gas and other extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction. 51,000 people nationwide have signed up to risk going to jail in order to stop a pipeline that would carry the products from another form of extreme fossil fuel extraction, the tar sands of Canada, an extraction process fueled by shale gas. There is a grand movement getting underway to end the era of burning fossil fuels for our energy needs, and we in Pennsylvania fighting shale gas are part of that grand movement. Young people are demanding that their universities and churches shed their fossil fuel investments. PNC Bank is being pressured to stop funding mountaintop removal to get coal by people moving their accounts to other banks. The industry’s own risk analysis experts have declared resistance to shale gas as a serious threat to corporate profits. Today we join with Pennsylvanians across the state at every office of the Don’t Expect Protection agency to say that this fracking process cannot be done safely and that in any case we need to be leaving fossil fuels behind altogether if we are serious about protecting our Earthly homeland.
APPEAL TO DEP WORKERS TO COME OUT!
Now let me speak to the people inside that building there, many of them worthy public servants who got into the work of environmental protection out of the same motives that bring us here today. We have heard of the demoralization that has set in among some of you whose consciences are still alive. We know that some of you hold the papers and the evidence that proves the case that your agency has been hijacked by the shale gas industry and their political lackeys, elected and appointed, in Harrisburg. You know how the agency has covered up the environmental sins of the gas industry. We appeal to you to come out with that incriminating evidence. If you can do it openly, God bless you. If you cannot afford to lose your job, then leak the information. But get it out to the public before it is too late, and so you can rest easy that you have fulfilled the duties for which you signed on when your agency was still the Department of Environmental Protection.
Finally, let me speak of a mighty resistance to all forms of new and extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction with which we join hands today.
First, to speak personally, on May 10, 2012 I declared my 50-acre Paradise Gardens and Farm in Jefferson County to be “a farm forever inviolate” of shale gas extraction. On that day I stated “There is an increasing collusion between corporate power and the governmental powers of the United States of America, Pennsylvania and other states. Our founders warned against such collusion as a fundamental threat to our democracy and called for the people to be vigilant in resisting it.” I followed up those statements by creating a deed restriction, a conservation easement, on my farm in the name of my late wife Dr. Lucinda Hart-González, The easement bans industrial activities like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and elevates the Rights of Nature above the powers claimed by extractive energy corporations to despoil the environment. The easement stands against any private property interests represented in deeds and leases that abet the despoliation of Nature by allowing fracking.
We can all do something to resist. We are all called to find, and every day we are finding, means to resist the corporate colonization of Pennsylvania that destroys the lives of many for the profits of few. Some like farmer Jenny Lisak do it by gathering the case record of shale gas destruction into her List of the Harmed because DEP is not doing that job. Some like Dr. Sandra Steingraber and others in New York are sitting in jail this Earth Day because they acted to resist shale gas extraction.
We are here today because DEP has betrayed its trust and failed to exercise its constitutional responsibilities. If DEP will not protect us, we will protect ourselves and defend the earth beneath our homes and farms. You hear that, DEP? Stand aside. The people will do what needs to be done to stop the destruction of Pennsylvania. You can count on that. We move today, we move tomorrow, and we will keep moving until we stop you and help you turn back to fulfilling the mission for which your agency was created. Then once again the words of Rachel Carson will be a living text by which the actions of DEP and all Pennsylvanians will be guided.