Saturday, January 31, 2015

Response to PA. Gov. Wolf’s “No-New-Leases-on-Public-Lands” Announcement

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
(All photos, save for the first [taken by a friend], taken by The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, March 2012).

A reporter from the Sunbury Daily Item called to ask for my reaction to newly-inaugurated Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to ban new gas drilling leases in Pennsylvania’s state forests and public lands (“Wolf’s ban on leases lauded,” Daily Item, January 30, 2015, A1-2).  I said that I was relieved because I have witnessed first-hand what kind of damage is being done in Tiadoghton State Forest (Lycoming County), for example. 
Where would Jesus frack?  Not in a park, not on a farm.  He would not frack and do such harm.

Drill rig at Tiadoghton State Park, Lycoming County, 2012.  Just the kind of tree I want to see when I hike the Pennsylvania Wilds.

So I am grateful that this step has been taken.

But I stressed that the existing leases are still active and the public lands are continuing to be drilled. 
Formerly pristine state forest now an industrial zone with a well pad.  Note the venting tower - you can't see the methane, but it's being released into the atmosphere, adding yet more greenhouse gases and exacerbating climate change.
And the rest of the state is still being ravaged by the process.  Here’s the thing:  if fracking is not good for our state forests and public lands, it’s not good for the rest of the state either. The reporter left that part out of my quote.
Why am I required to wear safety equipment in a state park??  The industrialization of Penn's Woods.
If it’s not good for the state of New York, it’s not good for PA, either.  If it’s not good for Scotland, it’s not good for the U.S. either.  As philosopher and fracktivist Wendy Lynne Lee has noted, “Thanking the gas wolf governor for ‘saving’ a few acres from the frack is like thanking the armed robber for leaving the curtains after he guts your house.”

Compressor station right next door to a house in rural Lycoming County, PA.

Pipeline cutting through forests (fragmentation).  Well pad next door to a house in rural Lycoming County, PA
Wolf still thinks that the shale gas drilling industry is good for PA, even as communities, families, and ecosystems continue to suffer.  

5 million gallons of water per day?? Granted, that's not what is used every day, but undoubtedly millions of gallons were used for fracking at this site.  That water can never be used for drinking again.  And probably got spilled or possible dumped into a local creek after it came back up with chemicals, dissolved solids and radioactive materials from deep below Earth's surface.  The industry is notorious for environmental violations. 
No form of energy is worth sacrificing our “common wealth” – the land, water, air, human and biotic communities that make up our planet.  A non-fossil-fuel energy economy based on renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and conservation is the wisest use of the resources entrusted to us.


  1. Dear Pastor Schade:

    Thank you for putting in proper perspective the good news that Governor Wolf delivered to all of us from Benjamin Rush State Park. Yes, it is a baby step rather than a great leap forward. True, the leases already up and running in our parks & forests are still alive and well.

    Yet my head tells me that philosopher Lee might do well to lighten up a bit at this very early stage of the game. Governor Wolf has promised clean, safe, and sustainable energy extraction practices to the citizens of PA. I do worry a bit as to what "sustainable" might mean to him. But "clean" and "safe" are, I think, concepts clear to all of us. They also seem the best places to start and sustain dialogue with the DCNR, the DEP and our PA lawmakers on the grave threat that climate disruption driven by global warming poses to our kids and grandkids. To say nothing of you and me.

    Thanks be to God for your prophetic voice! I look forwarding to meeting you in Selinsgrove on Feb. 16.

    Sincerely John Bechtel

  2. John - thanks for your comment! I agree that Lee can be on the harsh side. However, I believe she has an important role in this struggle. We need voices that are stridently prophetic because they hold us accountable to the highest possible standard. There are plenty of others who opt for the less-offensive "play nice" stance, but there are very few who are willing to take on the giants in such a bold and fearless way as people like Wendy Lynne Lee.

    I'm looking forward to talking with you and the others at the meeting on the 16th, where we can talk more about the concepts of "clean" and "safe"! Thanks again for engaging the topic!

  3. Dear Pastor Schade:

    You're more than welcome, and I want you to know how rich a source of encouragement you are for me. I hope by 2/16 to see a feasible plan of action on how best to put to sleep as soon as possible the ongoing oil and gas leases on state park and forest lands. In the meantime, yet another baby step has been taken. In apparent reaction to the good news out east at Benjamin Rush State Park last week, Range Resources out west has withdrawn three permit applications for shale gas well pads near schools in Washington County, Pa. Thanks be to God! What is a small step for us looks like a very big win for a whole lot of school kids, teachers, and parents. We just need to keep the wins coming on all fronts.

    I am grateful for your prophetic voice, and you are in my prayers.

    Sincerely John Bechtel


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