Activists Hold Pope-Themed Protest Against Fracking

Protesters brand Philadelphia Energy Solutions' Phil Rinaldi "fossil Phil with a heart of shale." He says later: "I like that."

Anti-fracking protesters

Papal-themed environmentalist protesters near the Convention Center, site of this year’s Shale Insight conference. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Everything in Philadelphia seems to be pope-themed this month — even the protests.

Activists dressed in homemade cassocks and mitres and held an anti-fracking demonstration near the Pennsylvania Convention Center this morning — protesting the Shale Insight conference being held today and tomorrow in Philadelphia.

“If you’re not going to shut down the conference, you might as well yell in their faces about it.” organizer Liz Arnold said outside the protest this morning. People walking in heard the message, apparently, though they were not convinced by it.

The shale industry is in a bit of a slump recently; the Inquirer reports the 69 drill rigs in Pennsylvania are operating at half of peak capacity. But energy companies want to turn Philadelphia into an energy hub by, in part, building a $2.5 billion pipeline.

Anti-fracking activists, though, believe the toll fracking takes on the environment is too great. Today they were pointing to a report released yesterday by investigative news site Public Herald that found the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “have kept drinking water contamination across Pennsylvania ‘off the books’ since fracking began in 2004.”

Public Herald’s extensive report highlights the struggles Pennsylvania residents in the Marcellus Shale face when attempting to report what they say are problems with contaminated drinking water. One example:

“If you want my opinion, the DEP, I do not trust them,” complainant #274235 of Delmar Twp. told Public Herald. “I think someone was paying them off. They tried changing their story. They said they would bring me spring water, and then they brought me two gallons and that’s all I’ve seen of it.” Complainant #274235 was the very first complaint in Delmar Twp. and is also considered to be cooked by Public Herald (please see number 1 above).

“We buy 20 to 25 gallon jugs at a time. And we buy three cases of bottled drinking water. If you want to peel potatoes and rinse them, you can’t rinse them with our water…My back room is stacked full of jugs.” Five years later, complainant #274235 is still living on bottled water. DEP took 16 months to make its determination.

Protesters were outside the conference from about 7:30 to 9 this morning. “Catholic or not,” Arnold said, “we are heeding to Pope Francis’ call to protect our only home.”