After being invited to visit Pennsylvania by residents who have experienced the impacts of fracking, my son Sean and I decided to go see the harms of fracking up close. Our friend Susan Sarandon came with us, and we had the incredible honor of being joined by Mahatma Ghandi’s grandson, Arun Ghandi, as well.
Driving into the quaint town of Montrose, PA, I could hardly have anticipated how upsetting the next stops on our tour would be: a gas pad of four drills and a hissing pressure release, a giant compressor station under construction, large trucks full of sand and toxic chemicals rumbling down narrow dirt roads, and a drilling rig reaching to the sky.
To see such a beautiful landscape ruined was disturbing enough, but not nearly as bad as the heartbreak of meeting those whose health, homes and lives have been forever changed because of fracking: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, Rebecca Roter, Frank Finan, Ray Kemble and the Manning family. They welcomed us into their homes with complete hospitality, and Tammy Manning even baked us delicious muffins.
And they told us their stories. They can no longer drink the water from their own wells because they have been poisoned by fracking pollution. These American families are suffering from suddenly not having clean water for the essentials of healthy living. They are not able to use their well water to drink, cook with, wash dishes, bathe or do laundry. They are buying water every day. Can you believe it?
They cannot move to a healthier place to raise their families because the value of their houses plummeted when the water went bad — and they cannot afford to relocate. They have to open their windows when they run the water to prevent methane gas from building up and risk explosion. It is a terrible fate, and there is no way to reverse what has happened to them. And it is outrageous that the gas companies accuse these honorable, defenseless people of lying — we saw the brown smelly water ourselves in homes right next to fracking sites. The fact that the water was nasty brown around their houses really scared me.
As we toured fracking sites in this once beautiful rural area and visited homes throughout the day, I reflected on the frightening reality that this dirty practice could soon destroy other families and homes in New York if Governor Cuomo lifts the ban on fracking.
After that tour, I have never felt more compelled to prevent others from facing the harm I saw in Pennsylvania last week. And after being followed around all day by industry representatives who yelled threats at us, I have also come to realize how much is at stake. We cannot allow people, clean water, and the health of our climate and planet to be sacrificed for the gas industry.
Will you join me in telling Governor Cuomo that he cannot open New York to fracking? We have until February 13 to let him know we will not allow the natural gas industry to destroy our communities with their devastating drilling.