Blockade in Progress to Save Community from Fracking Industry
Riverdale, Pa. residents and supporters have blockaded access to a mobile home community that is facing imminent displacement at the hands of Aqua America, a major water withdrawal company that supplies natural gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale region.
Approximately 30 residents and allies are currently blockading entrance roads to the community. Supporters have also placed tires and wooden boards at the entrance, alongside banners reading “Aqua America Kills Community” and “We Will Fight For Our Homes.” A Range Resources security vehicle arrived onsite around 11 a.m., and security officials are videotaping residents and blockaders.
The blockade was launched to halt Aqua America’s plans to begin construction of a withdrawal facility for water from the Susquehanna River to be used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations. Aqua America recently purchased the entire Riverdale mobile home unit to be used as a withdrawal site, and has issued lease termination notices to 32 Riverdale families. Construction is set to begin on June 1, and it is unclear what additional steps Aqua America will take to displace those families who are choosing to remain.
The dismantling of the community has left many residents in tears over the loss of their home. Deb Eck, one of the remaining residents, stated, “This park isn’t just a bunch of trailers with a bunch of people who don’t know each other. We’re all friends. We’re all neighbors. It’s a community. It’s one big family.”
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) permitted construction of the Riverdale water withdrawal facility in March. The SRBC, comprised of representatives from the White House and the governors of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, granted 48 withdrawal permits at its March meeting, despite the objections of concerned residents. Aqua America has been permitted to withdraw up to three million gallons of river water daily. Susan Obleski, spokeswoman for the SRBC, stated that the Susquehanna has been facing severe drought this spring “at levels that haven’t been seen since 1910 and 1946.”
Fracking has been linked to cases of water contamination in towns across the country including Dimock, Pa. and Pavilion, Wyo. The gas industry is exempted from the Clean Water and Safer Drinking Water Acts and as a result, many of the chemicals used in drilling are unknown. Pennsylvania law restricts the ability of local governments to regulate fracking operations and gags doctors from sharing information about chemicals used in fracking with public health officials. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protecting is facing criticism for its refusal to list the Susquehanna River as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act. According to John Arway of Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission, there has been a significant increase in fish with black lesions in the Susquehanna since last summer.
Today’s blockade is one of a series of escalating actions in resistance to increased fracking operations in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions. Pennsylvania activists disrupted the SRBC’s March hearing and have blockaded trucks carrying drillrigs in Lycoming County, and 11 Ohioans have been arrested for anti-fracking actions since last November. Additional major anti-fracking events scheduled for this summer include a takeover of the Ohio statehouse on June 17, the Earth First Rendezvous from July 1-7, a Youngstown-based action camp from July 13-17, and a July 28 convergence in Washington, D.C.
Residents and supporters are committed to stopping construction of the water withdrawal facility that threatens to raze their community. They are demanding that Aqua America permit residents to remain in the homes, compensate those who have already left, and allow for the return of all residents who have already been displaced. Residents have requested that more supporters converge in defense of the Riverdale mobile home park and to, in Deb Eck’s words, “help us keep the River in Riverdale.”
“We are here in solidarity with the residents of Riverdale, who are on the frontlines of the devastation that fracking is causing across Pennsylvania,” said blockader Lauren Zygmont. “We are putting our bodies on the line to send a message to perpetrators of environmental injustice worldwide: as long as you continue to sacrifice communities like Riverdale for profit, you can expect resistance.”
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When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
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