Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination?

Fracking the Suburbs: An Explosive Combination? by Peter Pearsal, Yes Magazine New Report, May 17, 2013, Nation of Change
“I think this is a bold move for these companies, to drill in suburbs, but they feel empowered to do it,” says Elisa Young, founder of the anti-coal activist group MeigsCAN in Meigs County, Ohio. “The landmen quietly come in, get all their ducks in a row, and then they tell you, ‘This is a done deal. You can’t do anything about it.’”

Young notes that environmental injustice has come as a shock for many of Broadview Height’s mostly white, middle-class population. For many of them, she says, “It’s their first experience at seeing how these industries really operate.” All of this means that Broadway Heights residents are now sharing an experience with the marginalized poor and with the residents of Indian reservations, where people have been dealing with similar situations for decades. But, not least because the people of Broadway Heights have the means to leave, there are some important limitations to that comparison. “Most native communities really maintain a connection to their land, and there isn’t the ability or desire to just pick up and move when things change,” Young says.

Geraldine Thomas-Flurer of the Yinke Dene Alliance, a coalition of tribes from British Columbia that formed in opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, says that the widespread push against exploitative resource extraction in North America— such as the Tar Sands Blockade, protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, and movements to stop fracking—has forged collaborations unlike anything that had existed before.

“[The majority of] British Columbia is opposed to the pipeline—indigenous and non-indigenous together,” she said, citing a February poll by Insights West that found 61 percent of adults oppose the project. “It’s the first time in my history that I’ve seen these communities working side by side, and I’m happy about that—we’re not alone in this.” What’s happening in British Columbia is unprecedented, she says, and bodes well for other parts of the world where similar clashes are taking place. “It’s clear that to fight these industries, everyone needs to speak up and support the movement. It’s not a First Nations issue. It’s a human issue.” Kari Matsko, director of a grassroots initiative in Ohio called the People’s Oil and Gas Collaborative, agrees. The more people who are directly affected by fracking, she says, the stronger the resistance becomes. “Regardless of status or demographic, people are experiencing firsthand the effects of this industry,” Matsko says. “All it’s going to take is for the energy companies to pick on the wrong person.” [Emphasis added]

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