fracking vs community

June 13, 2012


Protesters at the entrance to Riverdale Mobile Home Community
/Image from Kitchen Cabinet at

On Day 12 of their protest, the few remaining residents of a mobile home park along the Susquehanna River are still refusing to leave to make way for a pumping station that will provide water for the fracking industry in Pennsylvania.   But Aqua America, the new owner of the property, sent security guards today to erect a temporary fence, and state troopers were called to arrest protesters, some from the Occupy movement, for trespassing.  No one has been arrested, but activists who don’t live at the park have been told to stand along the side of the road outside the park.

This saga began in February, when the owner of the Riverdale Mobile Home Community in Lycoming County sold the land to Aqua America (whose owner, Nick DeBenedictis, was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources from 1983 to 1986). The 32 families, some of whom had lived at the park for 20 or 30 years, owned their mobile homes and paid rent at the park but were told the leases were terminated immediately and given until June 1 to leave. Aqua America gave $2,500 to those leaving by April 1;  $1,500 to those leaving by May 1 – although some residents said that moving their trailer would cost $4,000 to $10,000.  Those who fought the eviction said they were too poor to move and noted that rents in the area had also risen because of the influx of workers for the fracking industry.   

Aqua America, which notes on its website that “for us, being green comes naturally,” has a permit from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw up to 3 million gallons of water to ship through its new pipeline to the gas industry that is drilling in the Marcellus Shale in north-central Pennsylvania. The SRBC members are representatives of the governors of Maryland (Robert Summers, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Resources),  Pennsylvania, New York and from the federal government. 

Since, June 1, the holdouts and their supporters have blockaded the park to stop construction of the water pumping station and set up a website, Save the Riverdale Mobile Home Park, where videos from today and prior protests are posted. WNEP, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre television station, had this report.

This essay, which discusses some of the mean-spirited online comments of those who back industry, looks at the social justice issues behind the protest.

And photojournalist Stanley Rogouski writes passionately about the human costs of fracking.

Two other news items from Pennyslvania:

  • Last month, organic famer Stephen Cleghorn spread the ashes of his wife on his land to “declare this farm off-limits to unconventional drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale that lies a mile below it.” He wrote in an essay: “After Lucinda’s ashes become a part of this piece of the good earth, it becomes sacred ground to me and they are advised to keep their hell away from this place.” Cleghorn has a blog and wrote an essay after his wife’s death. He also makes his case against fracking in this presentation.  

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