Sandra Steingraber left jail shortly after midnight Thursday.//photo by John Armstrong from Raising Elijah’s Facebook page.

Sandra Steingraber was released from jail early today and will speak at UMBC Monday afternoon. I encourage you to be there.

For the past eight days, she has been locked up in Chemung County Jail in Elmira, NY, for trespassing—that is, blocking the entrance to a planned compressor station and natural gas storage site on the banks of and under Seneca Lake near her home in Trumansburg, NY. Steingraber maintains that the natural gas company is the trespasser, on the air, water, soil, climate, on the future of her children and all children, on peace of mind. 

Inergy LLC’s goal is to store liquefied natural gas in abandoned salt caverns and to turn the Finger Lakes region into a transportation and storage hub for fracked gas. Steingraber and 11 others—the Seneca Lake 12—were arrested in March when they blocked the way of a truck carrying a drill head and on its way to work at the site.  Steingraber and two others pled guilty at a trial last week and were jailed after refusing to pay $375 each in fines. (Five others paid the fine with the help of donations. The rest haven’t appeared in court yet.) 

Steingraber lived downstream from someone’s shortsighted and long-ago decisions and developed bladder cancer at age 20, most likely as a result. Her first book, Living Downstream, included research into the links between cancer and synthetic chemicals. She doesn’t want her children or any children to suffer from today’s bad decisions.

In her book Raising Elijah (just out in paperback), she writes of the environmental crisis borne of an addiction to fossil fuels. From prison, she wrote: 

“The fundamental message of Raising Elijah is that the environmental crisis is a crisis of family life, as it robs parents of our ability to carry out our two most basic duties: to protect our children from harm and to provide for their future. When inherently toxic chemicals – including developmental toxicants linked to asthma, birth defects and learning disabilities – are legally allowed to freely circulate in our children’s environment, we can’t protect them. When heat trapping greenhouse gases create extreme weather events that slash the world’s grain harvests (this is happening) and acidify the oceans in ways that threaten the entire marine food chain, starting with plankton (and this is happening too), then we can’t plan for our kids’ futures – no matter how much we sock away in their college funds or Tiger Mom them into athletic or musical mastery. 

“This crisis requires our urgent attention. And by attention, I mean sustained political action, not intermittent, private worrying. Hence, unless the kids can get there and back, under their own steam, then piano lessons, karate, Little League, play practice, SAT prep, and Scout meetings are cancelled until further notice. Ditto for yoga, date night, and book club (with apologies to my long-suffering publicist). 

“Look, one in every four mammal species is headed for extinction. The world’s available drinking water is becoming less and less available. Insect pollinators, which provide us one-sixth to one-third of the food we eat, are in trouble. The price index for 33 different basic commodities is rising, and financial analysts are predicting shortages of the kind that lead to social unrest. Meanwhile, the world’s leading and most powerful industry is preparing to blow up the nation’s bedrock and frack out the last wisps and drops of gas and oil – releasing inherently toxic chemicals into our communities to do so. 

“In short, we don’t have time for out-of-town sporting events.”

On being separated from her children, she wrote:

“So, yes, my course of political action has taken me away from my own children in an attempt to redress this problem on their behalf, and during the first five days, when I was kept in 24-hour lock-up, I had no access to them. But I am convinced the tears of my children now will be less than their tears later – along with the tears of my grandchildren – if we mothers do nothing and allow the oil, coal, and gas companies to hurdle us all off the climate cliff. 

“I’m also aware that human rights movements throughout history – from abolition to suffrage to civil rights – included many people who were parents of young children. They were surely just as busy as you and me. They, like I, probably also kept a list labeled, “Things to do before going to jail.” Their list, like mine, probably included: making meal plans, paying bills, cleaning the bathroom, and finding a costume for the school play. 

“To fight against Hitler, anti-fascist partisans sent their children away to safe places in case they were betrayed. They were busy parents, too. They loved their children just as much as we do. The difference is: now there is no safe place for our children. We can’t hide them from the ravages of climate change.” 

Sandra Steingraber has tried everything and run out of patience. She is calling for a “civil rights-style uprising” for this biggest crisis of our time. She said the women in jail with her were fierce, proud and worried about their children—including one who was trying during calls on the pay phone to find a kidney for her son. She is calling for a “civil rights-style uprising” for this biggest crisis of our time. From jail, she wrote to mothers: 

Imagine hundreds and hundreds of mothers peacefully blockading the infrastructure projects of the fossil fuel industry, day after day. Imagine us, all unafraid, filling jails across the land. Imagine the press conferences we would give upon our release. Imagine us living up to our children’s belief in us as super heroes.



–elisabeth hoffman


two kinds of trespass

April 18, 2013

sandra comforting elijah

Sandra Steingraber comforts her son, Elijah.
//photo from Facebook page of Gas Free Seneca.

Our jails overflow with people who in some cases shouldn’t be there while other criminals sit in fancy offices, getting huge salaries to destroy our air, our water, our land, our climate and our bodies.  Sandra Steingraber joined the unjustly jailed yesterday. (Tim DeChristopher, about to be released from prison, is another.)  In our fight against the most powerful and moneyed industry the planet has ever known, founder Bill McKibben has said, “We have our own currency: creativity, courage and, if needed, our bodies.“ And so Sandra Steingraber has used this currency.

Sandra Steingraber — biologist, author, environmentalist, fractivist, mother of two, wife — was arrested March 18 along with 11 others — the Seneca Lake 12 — for an act of civil disobedience: blocking the entrance to Inergy Midstream’s planned compressor station and natural gas storage facility near Watkins Glen, N.Y., on the Finger Lakes. The area is known for Riesling grapes and wine, outdoor recreation and farming. The protest was against Inergy’s plans to store fracked natural gas, in the form of propane and butane, in abandoned salt caverns near and under Seneca Lake, the source of drinking water for 100,000 people — including Steingraber’s family. The charge was trespassing, although Steingraber maintains Inergy is trespassing: on our air, lungs, water, safety and security.

At the March rally, Steingraber said:  “It is wrong to bury explosive, toxic petroleum gases in underground chambers next to a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. It is wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking at a time of climate emergency. It is right for me come to the shores of Seneca Lake, where my 11-year-old son was born, and say, with my voice and with my body, as a mother and biologist, that this facility is a threat to life and health.”

She and two others pleaded guilty to trespassing, and Reading Town Justice Raymond H. Berry  sentenced them to 15 days in the county clink after they declined to pay $375 fines. (Five protesters paid fines with the help of donations; the others have yet to appear in court.)

Let’s recall Susan B. Anthony, arrested for voting in 1873, still 47 years before women could vote. At her trial in Rochester, N.Y., she was found guilty and ordered to pay a $100 fine. In one account of the trial, her reply to the judge was: “May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”

I am in the middle of reading Steingraber’s book Raising Elijah: Protecting Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis for a second time. It has just been released in paperback, and I recommend it highly. Elijah is the name of her son. It is also the name of an assassinated abolitionist and writer from Illinois, the Rev. Elijah Lovejoy.

As she writes in the foreword, this is not a book about protecting children by shopping differently. It is about an environmental crisis that is actually two crises that “share a common cause,” she writes. One crisis is the damage to our planet (droughts, floods, bleached coral reefs, loss of plankton) because of a buildup of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The other crisis is the damage to our bodies (cancer, asthma, autism, “abbreviated pregnancies, altered hormone levels and lower scores on cognitive tests”) brought on by the buildup of toxic chemicals in our body. Both come from our dependence on fossil fuels, she writes. “When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances – pesticides, solvents, plastics – that can tinker with our subcellular machinery…”  (Today, the news is filled with images from the deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The plant was storing 54,000 pounds of explosive and toxic anhydrous ammonia, which is made from natural gas and used to make fertilizer. A quote from Steingraber via Raising Elijah’s Facebook page: “We need emancipation from our terrible enslavement to fossil fuels in all their toxic forms.”)

Steingraber says of her mission in a Bill Moyers segment airing this weekend: “My job is to go out there and stop it, to tell my children, look, climate change is a serious problem, it’s a threat to your future. But Mom is on the job.” Steingraber is also scheduled to speak at UMBC April 29, only 11 days from now. So, check UMBC’s website for updates.

Below is Steingraber’s statement before her sentencing at the courthouse. Instead of letters to her in jail, Steingraber is asking for letters to the editor. According to Gas Free Seneca’s page on Facebook, Steingraber’s husband, artist Jeff de Castro, said this morning of their son: “Elijah was very sad last night, but woke up and wrote a Letter to the Editor first thing!”

–elisabeth hoffman

Sandra Steingraber’s statement:

Your Honor, I am not a lawyer. I am a biologist and a human being. I am also a mother of a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old. I bring all these identities to your courtroom tonight.

I am guilty of an act of trespass. On March 18, I willfully stood on private property owned by the Inergy company and blocked access to a compressor station site that is being constructed in order to prepare explosive hydrocarbon gases, propane and butane, for storage in abandoned salt caverns that are located beside and beneath Seneca Lake.

In my field of environmental health, the word trespass has meaning. Toxic trespass refers to involuntary human exposure to a chemical or other pollutant. It is a contamination without consent. It is my belief, as a biologist, that Inergy is guilty of toxic trespass. Inergy has been out of compliance with EPA regulations every quarter for the past three years. In spite of this, Inergy applied for, and has received, from the state of New York a permit to discharge, every day, an additional 44,000 pounds of chloride into Seneca Lake. That’s 22 tons a day. That’s 8000 tons a year. Seneca Lake is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. Those industrial discharges trespass into the bodies of those who drink it.

Additionally, Inergy’s planned 60-foot flare stack will release hazardous air pollutants, including ozone precursors, as will the fleets of diesel trucks hauling propane. This kind of air pollution is linked to heart attack and stroke risk, preterm birth, and asthma in children. Thus does Inergy trespass into our air and lungs. I see this as a real danger to my 11-year-old son, who has a history of asthma. We live 15 miles to the east—directly downwind—from this facility.

Inergy’s plans to industrialize the lakeshore will bring 24/7 light and noise pollution into a tranquil community. These forms of trespass also have health consequences, including increased risk for breast cancer and elevated blood pressure.

And because Inergy is building out infrastructure for the storage and transportation of greenhouse gases obtained by fracturing shale, Inergy trespasses into our climate and contributes to its ongoing destablization at a time when the best science show us that we need to be rapidly moving away from fossil fuels of all kinds.

Lastly, the risk of catastrophic accidents from the storage of liquefied petroleum gases in salt caverns is real. It has happened in at least 10 previous occasions. The 14-acre sinkhole in Belle Rose, Louisiana, which is now making headlines, was caused by a collapsed salt cavern. It sent crude oil gushing up into surface water and natural gas into groundwater.

As a biologist, I have submitted expert comments and petitions about Inergy’s application for permits to both the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. However, I am hampered in my efforts to judge the structural soundness of the salt caverns because the company that owns them insists that the scientific research that documents the history of these caverns—at least one of which sits on a fault line—is a trade secret.

Your honor, how can geological history become proprietary information? Without access to data, how can any member of the public evaluate the risks we are being compelled to endure by the repurposing of salt caverns into giant underground cigarette lighters?

In closing, my actions were taken to protest the trespass of Inergy into our air, water, bodies, safety, and security. My small, peaceful act of trespass was intended to prevent a much larger, and possibly violent one.

The people of Bellrose, Lousiana, are now facing relocation after the catastrophic collapse of the salt cavern there. Family homes are being abandoned. And the signs on the front lawns of the empty houses read, “No trespassing.”

To bring attention to such hazards for the Finger Lakes–and for the act of protecting water, which is life itself–I trespassed. It was an act of civil disobedience. For that, and because I have deep respect for the rule of law, which Inergy company does not, I am willing to go to jail.

myersville marches on

April 17, 2013

map of compressor station and town

The map shows the location of the proposed 16,000 hp compressor station in Myersville in relation to the town’s elementary school and the evacuation center at the fire station.//Information provided by Myersville resident Ann Nau.

Mighty Myersville should have caved by now.

Facing a Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI) lawsuit, an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and a huge stack of documents, this rural town of about 1,600 could have been expected to back off, resigned and chastened, to await its compressor station.

But Myersville residents march on. To industry, they are the ants disturbing the picnic of abundant fracked natural gas that Dominion and company plan to lay out for the country. And so, industry is hauling out the DDT.

Last month, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), whose members (including TransCanada Corp.) operate 200,000 miles of pipelines, piled on. It filed a friend of the court brief in Dominion’s January lawsuit against Robert Summers, head of the state Department of the Environment (MDE). Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC) joined that suit as an intervener. That case will be heard May 14 in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. In a separate suit in January, Dominion also sued the town, Town Council and mayor. MCRC and the town also have asked FERC for a rehearing.

As INGAA indicates in its friend of the court filing, FERC “routinely issues” certificates for compressor stations, which, come to think of it, it did in this case as well.  In INGAA’s view, if towns can thwart a compressor station, they will soon be stopping other fracking infrastructure, such as pipelines and plants for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Myersville residents and elected officials have refused to cave, and the state Department of the Environment is backing them up.

Turns out the Myersville battle is part of a growing revolt against routine FERC approvals amid a rudderless national energy policy, all while the global temperatures soar, the ice caps melt, droughts persist, coral reefs die and the weather goes crazy.  When FERC rubber-stamps compressor stations, pipelines, LNG terminals and the rest of the natural gas infrastructure, industry gets to be the decider. FERC’s role is not to figure out whether fracking, with its expanding infrastructure, is safe or sensible public policy. It doesn’t have to look at the big picture. Its mission is to make sure the energy flows. Given a lack of energy policy beyond the current “all of the above” strategy in Washington, communities such as Myersville can’t be blamed for wondering if FERC is acting in the best interest of communities and the nation or, more likely, the industry.  (A number of environmental groups are planning a day of action April 18 outside FERC’s monthly meeting to complain about its role. More information at

A bit of background on Myersville: After scaring several other towns, Dominion finally settled on Myersville for the 16,000-horsepower compressor station that would pressurize natural gas as it passes through pipelines from fracking sites in Pennsylvania to homes and businesses in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast (and perhaps beyond. More on that later). After several hearings in Myersville, and at the urging of MCRC, the mayor and Town Council decided in August that amending the local Comprehensive Plan to allow the compressor station was not in the best interests of the town. The compressor station would be a health and safety hazard to residents, town officials decided. Furthermore, Myersville already doesn’t meet federal and state air quality standards, and this would only make matters worse.

FERC decided otherwise and in December issued a permit for the compressor station. FERC went so far as to conclude that the compressor station would benefit the town.  But even with the FERC certification, Dominion needed an air quality permit from the state. Secretary Summers, however, said his Department of the Environment couldn’t issue that permit unless Dominion had the required local zoning, which it doesn’t. Dominion maintains that FERC’s order and the federal Natural Gas Act preempt local regulations and the Clean Air Act. Myersville officials, its residents and the state disagree. Hence the lawsuits.

INGAA and Dominion’s court filings reveal exactly what is at stake. Dominion says compressor stations are needed in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to keep gas flowing. Dominion says it will “suffer irreparable harm” if it can’t construct the Myersville compressor station.  It even claims that the harm from the compressor station to the town of Myersville is less than the harm Dominion will feel if it can’t build the facility.

INGAA also sees a bigger picture behind this Myersville nuisance. Myersville and MDE’s success in stopping this project “would mean, in effect, that a single town can veto a $112 million, FERC-approved, interstate pipeline project spanning three states” and “would provide a blueprint for every other Maryland municipality that wants to block a pipeline project and, by extension, for every other state.” INGAA notes in its filing that from 2000 to 2012, the amount of gas pipeline placed in service increased an average of 1,300 miles per year. Its members, who construct all this pipeline,  would have  to “take the added risks of a municipality-triggered state veto into consideration in planning and proposing new projects.” Whereas now, industry and FERC can ride roughshod over any town.

INGAA also notes how critical this decision will be “as public concern over enhanced natural production techniques has spilled over into movements aimed at derailing all elements of the natural gas industry, including pipelines.” It mentions Sierra Club’s  “Beyond Natural Gas” initiative, the group’s intent to block LNG export facilities because  “[t]hese terminals would be connected by hundreds of miles of pipelines, crossing state and national forests, wild and scenic rivers, sensitive wetlands, and family farms[.]”

Coincidentally—or not—Dominion has filed an application (weighing in at 12,000 pages) with FERC to expand its Cove Point LNG facility in Lusby, Md., so that it can export all this fracked natural gas to Japan and India.  Indeed, one of MCRC’s arguments with FERC is that the proposed Myersville station is oversized—because the town is being in sucked into Dominion’s plans to send excess capacity to Cove Point.

Myersville has a very different view about this compressor station. It is concerned about noise as well as air pollution from volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxide and formaldehyde. It has also compiled a list of accidents in the last couple of years at compressor stations, some of which required evacuation of residents within 1.5- or 2-mile radius. The entire town of Myersville is within two miles of the proposed station, including the  evacuation center at the fire department (one mile) and the elementary school (one mile). The surrounding area is farmland, state parks and some historic sites.

Myersville is defending its master plan in the suit. But MCRC is also taking on the entire FERC system. “The FERC scoping session is absolutely ludicrous and puts the onus on the local citizens to oppose a multibillion-dollar company and a governmental agency with no oversight,” according to MCRC secretary Ted Cady.  Dominion can do endless hours of research to counter any local points. It submitted 1,000 pages of information to FERC, including 12 resource reports, appendix, and other material, Cady said. Under the FERC process, residents, with no background in the subject, then have to review, understand, submit comments. In an arrangement that pits communities against each other, Myersville was also expected to  provide alternatives.

“They must educate themselves on the complexity of the industry and its impacts to air/water/land permitting, cultural concerns such as registered historic sites and … environmental concerns such as the Endangered Species Act, geologic fault analysis, noise safety, air dispersion analysis, etc.,” Cady wrote in a letter about the suits.

In its court filing, MCRC says INGAA and Dominion are exaggerating the doom scenario—i.e., that all towns will rise up against FERC. The courts will rule on Myersville’s unique circumstances. But towns such as Dryden and Syracuse, NY, Pittsburgh and Highland, PA, and many others are saying no to fracking, and Minisink, NY, is still fighting a compressor station there, even as construction moves ahead. Residents in Longmont, CO, call their action a “citizen uprising.” Myersville is joining in.

–elisabeth hoffman

compressor station drawing

A computerized image of how the compressor station will look. Dominion has offered to paint it to look like a barn.//Image provided by Ann Nau.

josh pribanic and Melissa troutman by mike bagdes-canning

Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman talk about their film “Triple Divide” at a Butler Area Public Library screening. //photo by Michael Bagdes-Canning

I drove through Pennsylvania on the turnpike early Saturday. Past the billboards for “Affordable coal energy: Increasingly green and always red, white and blue” and “Wind dies, sun sets. You need reliable, affordable, clean coal electricity.” Past the giant wind turbines on the mountain ridge near Somerset. I picked up my brother in Pittsburgh, a frack-free zone, and headed for the western Pennsylvania premier of the film “Triple Divide” at the Butler Area Public Library. This part of the state is not frack-free.

“Triple Divide” the documentary is impressive and disturbing storytelling about the free-for-all that is fracking in Pennsylvania. Triple divide the natural phenomenon sends the waters in fracked Potter County, Pa., into three North American watersheds. At this juncture, the Allegheny River heads west to the Ohio River and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico, the Genesee River finds its way north to Lake Ontario, and the west branch of the Susquehanna River winds southeast through Maryland and into the Chesapeake Bay. As filmmaker Melissa Troutman says in the movie’s narration, “For the triple divide, everything is downstream.” These rivers form the ecological foundation for life in the region, not to mention providing drinking water for millions in and beyond the region.

And with that as backdrop, the farce that is the Pennsylvania government’s disconcerting dealings with the gas industry unfolds. The film is the result of Troutman and Joshua B. Pribanic’s 18 months of interviews with affected landowners, scientists and legal experts, as well as countless hours examining files at the state Department of Environmental Protection and hiking in the Tioga State Forest, where fracking is also ongoing and where, at one point, they were threatened by workers at a drilling site who thought they were “ecoterrorists.”

It includes television footage of then-Environment Secretary Michael Krancer advising the people of Pennsylvania to trust the commonwealth. “We’re on top of it,” he says. Later he tells the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back off because the “states . . . are doing a good job regulating hydraulic fracturing.” Well, not so much, as the film shows. Troutman and Pribanic’s documentary also leaves one wondering whether any amount of regulating will be enough.

Troutman and Pribanic document several cases of people sickened by fracking, of water contaminated with fracking-related chemicals and of drillers not held accountable, of violations with no consequences, of drillers proceeding without authorization, of drillers with violations nevertheless getting new permits, of scientists raising serious questions about the whole mess. Judy Bear, who drills water wells and is interviewed in the film, asks what we all were asking: “Who is protecting the residents of this state if our own state is not willing to do it?”

Pennsylvania General Energy drilled the first well in Potter County, where Troutman grew up and was a reporter covering the natural gas industry for a small weekly newspaper until her position was abruptly terminated. That first drill pad ended up 50 feet closer than allowed to a stream the commonwealth had designated High Quality, warranting strict protection. Oh, well. The company racked up numerous violations, including for erosion, a torn pond liner and spills into the stream. Nevertheless, the film indicates, the company was issued a permit to bury its waste onsite. Turns out the pit was deeper than what is called the Seasonal High Water Table, the highest point the water table might reach. DEP issued a violation, but the company never had to move the buried waste.

One section of the film covers landowner Judy E., who had skin and other health problems and whose previously pristine water her farm animals suddenly refused to drink. Tests of the water showed high levels of methane, arsenic and radon. She was advised not to shower, bathe or brush her teeth with the water. Although Guardian Exploration had drilled on her neighbor’s property, DEP determined that the company wasn’t at fault because Judy E’s complaint came more than six months after the drilling ended. Guardian eventually paid to connect Judy’s home to public water, although she now has a monthly water bill that the driller refuses to pay. Troutman and Pribanic found records that DEP had initially turned down a permit to bury waste on the neighbor’s land because it was too close to the water supply, but Guardian did so anyway. Eventually DEP reversed itself and approved the waste pit. The records, though, included no mention of Judy’s complaint. As Judy says in the film, “One lies for the other.”

The film also covers the aftermath of a huge blowout in 2011 at a drilling rig in Leroy Township in Bradford County that sent 10,000 gallons of flowback into a tributary of Towanda Creek. Pre-drilling water tests at one property showed clean water, but post-accident tests showed high levels of methane, strontium, sodium and other chemicals related to drilling. Chesapeake Energy hired the company that investigated the spill, a company that had a Chesapeake board member on its board, and eventually claimed the pre-drilling test was merely a one-time “snapshot” that didn’t reflect the true water quality. Chesapeake said it was not responsible for the water contamination, and DEP let that stand in the commonwealth’s final evaluation of the spill. If I didn’t hear gasps during this section of the film, everyone was probably too stunned. We are perhaps in even more trouble than we thought if a driller can toss out pre-drill water tests. (Troutman was covering this blowout when her reporter position was terminated. Two weeks later, she wrote in an email, Chesapeake Energy ran large color ads in the otherwise black and white paper).

The film includes landowners who find themselves merely “visitors” on their land because they own only the surface rights.  Land they hoped to farm is bulldozed and fracked while they watch, powerless.

And lest you thought the only problems were sloppiness on the surface, Troutman and Pribanic also take on concerns about the failure, whether immediate or eventual, of the cement casings that line the wells and the migration of the fracking fluid that remains underground. They often use simple and yet incredibly damning chalk drawings to illustrate these points. As hydrogeologist Bob Haag notes, “When you inject that much pressure that you lift all of the overlying rock, even a little bit, you create a new fracture pattern above the hydraulic fracturing zone, and you increase the ability of overlying rock to transmit water.”  Furthermore, the preferred method for disposing of waste fluid is underground injection, “turning the state into a pseudo deep-well injection waste-storage field,” Troutman says during the film.

Filmmakers Troutman and Pribanic, who attended the screening and stayed to answer many audience questions, think their film is making a difference. They screened it in Colorado Springs right before a vote last month to ban fracking there. “We see people getting more and more upset,” said Pribanic, who lives in Ohio but used to fly fish while vacationing in Potter County as a child.

Even by-the-book fracking will not provide a solution, Troutman said. “You can’t regulate away the inevitable impacts” of this process. Pribanic reminded the group that fracking is exempt from many federal regulations that protect drinking water, including the Superfund Act.  Twenty or 30 years from now, he said, “the gas companies won’t be held liable if [fracking fluid] leaks into the water supply.”

The filmmakers were scheduled to come to Annapolis last month, along with landowners harmed by fracking, but an ice storm in Pennsylvania forced a cancellation of the event. Environment Maryland hopes to reschedule in the summer.

The movie is the first project for Public Herald, a non-profit investigative news organization Troutman and Pribanic started. They talked about their precarious finances during the months of working on the film and sold “Triple Divide” T-shirts at the screening. Troutman is also outreach coordinator for the Mountain Watershed Association.  Marcellus Outreach Butler (MOB), a citizens group fighting fracking in northwest Pennsylvania, paid for the Butler screening so it could be shown for free to the public. About 60 people attended, including many who live near land leased for fracking.

“A lot of people feel hopeless about this,” Dianne Arnold, the treasurer of MOB, told those at the screening. ”The power comes from people coming together in communities…and saying,  ‘Enough is enough.’ “

–by elisabeth hoffman