An Earth Day protest was weakly - and rather quietly - attended Thursday afternoon in the city.
Two activists opposing the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling showed up outside the state Department of Environmental Protection regional office here.
They joined those across the state as part of the "Pennsylvania Statewide Earth Day Protest" network held outside each of the agency's regional offices.
Pennsylvania College of Technology students prepare a tree to plant in the courtyard outside the Susquehanna Room on campus. Students in horticulture, forestry and related majors helped trim trees in the courtyard and clear out dead or diseased trees, planting new ones in celebration of Earth Day. The courtyard is going through all the changes to make room for a playground for children in the Early Childhood Development program at the college.
By JESSICA WELSHANS/Sun-Gazette
The event summoned members from organizations such as the Green Party of Pennsylvania, Citizens for Clean Water, No Drill NEPA, Energy Justice Network and Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition.
The group members demanded an immediate moratorium on all horizontal hydrofracturing, a suspension of drilling-related water withdrawals anywhere in the Delaware and Susquehanna River Basin watersheds and, if necessary, the immediate resignation of DEP secretary John Hanger.
Here, those who turned out aired their frustrations and unanswered questions on the impact the industry may have on the environment. Local Green Party member Michael Ochs said he believes the industry's new technologies have potentially unknown hazards.
Those unknown factors are why activists are calling for a moratorium, which would allow for an investigation to properly determine hydrofracturing's environmental and biological impact before it's too late, he said.
"What's the hurry?" he said. "Technology, in this case, is ahead of society. We have to catch up. The existence of the Marcellus Shale creates a go-ahead, extractive economy. Let's slow down and consider all the ramifications."
Calling to mind the state's previous explorations in areas such as coal mining, Ochs said presented technologies resulted in acid mine drainage. He also cited the lumber industry, which left the city open to flooding for which it wasn't prepared.
"Taxpayers pay for it eventually. Is that the legacy we want to leave for the next generation?" he said.
As Thursday's event was considered an Earth Day protest, Ochs said society needs to rely on renewable energy sources and not be dependent on fossil fuels, such as the gas derived from Marcellus Shale.
"Some people are saying that natural gas is a bridge to that," he said. "Who's building that bridge? I don't see (gas) companies building or advancing to wind or solar (energies). Instead, they want to extract it and send it abroad."
Ochs questioned the industry's plan to preserve natural gas but believes its presence only will delay any attempts to make the connection people are claiming will happen.
"Where can we find an environmental track record for these companies? Where do we find this information, and are they good or bad actors?" he asked.
Green Party member Margaret Yaggie, a Roaring Branch resident in Tioga County, said she moved from Pittsburgh to "go to a beautiful area" 20 years ago but now believes her situation is deteriorating to a potentially hazardous region.
"I invested a lot of money into my farm," she said, expressing concerns over the pollution to the air and drinking water drilling may bring to her property.
While the two seemed disappointed in the lack of a stronger turnout, Ochs believed many were "saving their energy" for Thursday night's town hall forum on the Marcellus Shale at the Community Theatre.
However, no one picketed there.