Who Ya Gonna Call? The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund The Anti-Fracking Movement in Small-Town America

For years, residents of Easton, Pennsylvania, watched as hydraulic fracking swept across Washington County located on the Marcellus Shale, bringing with it money and environmental worries. Now they and other communities across the U.S. are enacting bans and moratoriums to slow drilling. Vermont was the first state to ban fracking, although generally it was believed to be a symbolic gesture. But, a new version of these anti-fracking laws is being used, often based on material from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

community environmental legal defense fund, Credit: SFU, FlickrCCThe City Council of Pittsburgh adopted a “first in the nation” ordinance in November 2011, banning corporations from conducting gas drilling in the city. Dennis Leib, a member of Easton’s city council, is working to get an anti-fracking bill through the council in the fall. But he has a broader goal: He and a committee have presented the council with a Community Bill of Rights for residents. Lieb says residents have the right to decide what is right for the community and they do not recognize a corporation’s rights because “the corporations are a fiction printed on paper.” Lieb hopes to put the initiative on the ballot in the spring or work towards an amendment to the city charter.

Residents in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, woke up to a surprise in early July when the U.S. Geological Survey said it discovered an “as yet untapped source of deposits of natural gas,” the South Newark Basin, lying underneath parts of Montgomery and Bucks Counties. Lawmakers, seeking to evaluate the potential for natural gas, introduced the moratorium on natural gas drilling in Bucks County by adding it to the state’s fiscal code and the moratorium was approved in June.

How does the South Newark Basin compare with the Marcellus Shale? “The USGS estimated that the Marcellus Shale contains a mean volume of 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas or approximately 100 times more than the estimated mean volume for the South Newark Basin,” says James Coleman, a research geologist.