Is the Anti-Drilling Crowd Losing Steam? Low Numbers Turn Out for Josh Fox Rally in Harrisburg

Josh FoxPerhaps the real question should be: Did the anti-drilling crowd ever really have a head of steam to begin with? The mainstream media certainly wants you to think so. A relatively small group of people who oppose drilling in the Marcellus—indeed people who are demanding a total ban on gas drilling—seem to get a lot of press coverage, while a majority who support it get relatively little press coverage.

MDN’s observation and the reason for this post…

Yesterday, Josh Fox, writer and director of the anti-drilling documentary “Gasland” was the headline protestor who sat outside Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s office door “demanding” to meet with him. This particular anti-fracking protest rally in Harrisburg (PA’s Capitol), had been hyped for weeks in advance. Here is an article from the Harrisburg Patriot-News on Monday talking about the protest scheduled for Tuesday:

Organizers of the anti-drilling rally say they expect 400 to 600 people, based on the number of those who have made appointments to meet with their legislators and on the buses scheduled to bring protesters in from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Williamsport.

“There are all sorts of other places where people have organized car pools and vans,” said Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action, one of the sponsoring groups

Practically all areas of the state will be represented, he said.

Celebrity is one of the attractions.

Documentary film maker Josh Fox, who was nominated for an Academy Award for “Gasland,” will be the keynote speaker.(1)

Here’s how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported it yesterday afternoon:

Several hundred anti-drilling activists packed the state Capitol rotunda today with a message for the governor and lawmakers: halt gas drilling until a comprehensive study of its impacts is completed.(2)

Notice how we quickly moved from 400-600 to “several hundred”. And finally, here is how the AP reported it:

Accusing the government of being unable to protect the environment or public health, more than 200 people rallied on Tuesday in the Pennsylvania Capitol for tougher laws — if not an outright ban — on natural gas drilling as pressure builds on state lawmakers to approve a levy on the booming industry.(3)

So we went from 400-600, to several hundred, to more than 200, which means there was most likely 200 or less at the “big-time” protest with Josh Fox. Given the high profile of Fox and the promotion of this event, 200 people turning out does not seem like all that many.

(1) Harrisburg Patriot News (Jun 6, 2011) – Anti-drilling rally expected to draw 400 to 600 people

(2) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Jun 7, 2011) – Hundreds protest Marcellus Shale drilling in Harrisburg

(3) Christian Science Monitor/AP (Jun 7, 2011) – Pennsylvania eyes natural gas tax on biggest US find

  • Carol Anne Mauer Donohoe

    Wow.  This is the worst you’ve got? To quibble about the numbers? There were more than 350 attenders and many others who could only come for portions of the day.  So that 400 estimate was pretty accurate, I’d say.  I can only imagine the numbers if it hadn’t been a working day for so many. Oh, we are GAINING steam, no matter how you try to spin it.

  • Carol Anne Mauer Donohoe

    Wow. That’s the best you can do?  Quibble about the numbers? The industry must be getting nervous.  There were over 360 registered attenders for lobbying day, and many others who could only make it for portions of the day.  That 400 estimate was rather accurate, I’d say.  I can only imagine what the numbers would have been if it hadn’t been a working day for the many others who wanted to take part.  So, to answer the above question:  No. The anti-drilling, pro-citizen, pro-environment, pro-Pennsylvania crowd is GAINING steam!

  • Anonymous

    You guys can whistle in the dark if you want to.  But I would watch your back.

    Nathan Sooy
    GAS TRUTH of Central PA
    Clean Water Action, Harrisburg

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  • Dave Meiser

    What a bunch of BS  to have 200+ working citizens turn out on a Tuesday is considered a huge turnout.  there are thousands who would have liked to come to this rally but couldn’t because they had to work or had other commitments.  We may have not been there in person but we were there in spirit (and we made certain our legislators know our opinions on this as well!.

  • Angelo S

    Spin spin spin… “The event was a FLOP! “The ‘Anti-drilling’ crowd never had a head of steam”…

    These comments belie the lack of real knowledge the writer posesses regarding the issues of the Marcellus Shale.

    Most of the people who have been protesting the behavior of drillers and politicians are not “Anti-drilling”. They are not stupid. They understood the economic benefits of shale gas. They wanted the advantages of energy independence. But they were also far ahead of the un-informed masses in terms of understanding the incredible danger and recklessness of the industry if left unchecked by paid-off politicians and cheap talking agency heads like John Hangar.

    We have real properties that will take a lifetime to recover from the damages done by reckless unchecked drillers since 2004. See Range Resources v. Ronald Gulla. Range wasn’t forced to pay to buy his farm because they were doing a good job environmentally. They destroyed it.

    Look up George Zimmerman v. Atlas Oil & Gas. Zimmerman lost an $11 million cash investment in a vineyard — a 500 acre showplace farm. He didn’t even have a financial interest in the gas royalties — he was just being cooperative in exchange for free gas to run his farm. He lost it all! Ruptured aquifiers. Polluted soil. He trusted the industry just like Gulla who only asked for $750 for the rights to drill on his 140 acre farm. Neither man was in it for greed. Both lost millions and years of hard work. And they are just two of hundreds of simialr cases.

    PA DEP’s record of indifference and lack of action is fact. The record doesn’t lie. Hangar was unqualified to handle the science, the workload and the industry. But he’ll never admit it because he’s a buereaucrat — not a responsible, take-charge director. He lied in Josh Fox’s documentary when he said there wasn’t one case of polluted water in PA. Gulla and Zimmerman cases were years old when that film was produced. Dimmock was years old when he said those words. So he lied. Get it. He lied. He still lies. 

    What’s different now from just 60 days ago is we don’t have tankers loaded with toxic wastewater lined-up at our treatment facilities. We don’t have millions of gallons of toxic wastewater going into our drinking water everyday like we did 60 days ago.

    We now have a real secretary at the DEP (Krancer) who not only has the knowledge but the guts and the mental capability to manage an industry that compulsively lies to it’s shareholders and the general public.

    The protesters didn’t want to cripple our economy. They wanted to preserve the environment in which the economy lives or dies. 

    As miraculous as the wastewater ban is… (I’m still pinching myself) there is still work to be done to watch this industry. Air and soil quality are vulnerable to emissions from gas processing plants and compressor stations. The food chain and our childrens’ development are still at risk.
    We need to watch and see where the residual waste from frack water treatment plants gets dumped.

    The protestors – myself included – should be credited with the progress that has been gained in a relatively short time. The protestors brought these issues to the attention of hundreds of state , county and town officials who were absolutely clueless about the dangers of frack drilling and industry behavior. Most public officials only had the economic side of the story because the industry put tens of millions into their propaganda efforts.The Marcellus Shale Coalition lies constantly about almost everything they put out regarding frack drilling. I could write a book on it.
    I can prove it if I wanted to piss my time away.

    So the protestors were not idealogues for the most part. We had a few “hippies”. Most were middle class property and business owners who didn’t want to get “rolled” by the corporatist elite and gangster politicians.

    Corbett has proven his integrity. He’s surprised the hell out of me! In spite of the heavy gas money that fueled his campaign he has put Pennsyvania first.

    Thank a protestor.

  • BradyDale

    Ha ha, you guys are funny. I think the AP only counted the folks on the steps. It’s always hard to get folks to stand behind the speakers at rallies because you can’t hear, but if you look at the photos online, you’ll see the Rotunda was packed. I think 400 is a fair number. 360 people pre-registered for the event, tho no doubt some of them didn’t show. At least 60 people showed up WITHOUT registering, and no doubt many of those folks didn’t check in. I’ve been to lots of big rallies in that rotunda. It was 400 easy.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, tho, we had consistuents show up in the offices of I think 45 of the 50 State Senators. That is: folks from ACROSS the state were there. The geographic diversity was amazing. 

    Yes, we have a good head of steam. It will only get bigger. 

  • Julieann Wozniak

    Greene County, where I live and where a preponderance of Marcellus activity is taking place, is a 6 to 9 hour drive from Harrisburg. Unlike rich corporate interests and our privileged pols, we don’t have access to private jets and chauffeured SUVs. Personally, I just can’t shut down my business for a day or venture more than 30 minutes from the Morgantown, WV nursing facility where I’ve placed my mom. And the Gasland guy is not the boss of me. Nor does he speak for the grassroots movement in which I actively participate.

    I belong to the bi-state Mon River Watersheds Compact as a representative of the Greene County Watershed Alliance. Our meetings are always packed, and include representatives of government, industry, and the public, with more than a sprinling of MSs and PHds. I attended a meeting on 2 June in Morgantown with a thousand people in attendance, all alarmed at the prospect of Marcellus drilling within a thousand feet of the city’s fresh water intake.

    West Virginia does not ban home rule on environmental issues and, according to my Dominion Post. Morgantown is poised to ban Marcellus drilling within, and within a mile of, its city limits. The new ordinance will be based on Pittsburgh’s. And it looks like nearby Westover will soon follow Morgantown’s lead.

    Instead of petering out, it looks like the revolution is just getting started.

  • glenn

    As a geologist, I’m amazed that the Marcellus industry operates like it’s the 1950s- both in exploting a technique that, if it had to adhere to modern-day environmental regulations would be rapidly evolved (and possibly become cost-prohibitive), but since it doesn’t have to conform, it is left as a very primitive method to maximize profits. And, rather than taking oppositional concerns seriously and helping to educate people on mistaken points, the industry just bashes opponents, as seen in the post above. Those protestors are people who took their time and money to go to Harrisburg- unlike the pro-extraction side, they have no money to make here.  I haven’t seen this kind of attitude in other mineral exploration and extraction industries, nor even to this degree in other fossil fuel corporations and associations.  And, I think it is an attitude that will ultimately work against people who are pro-extraction, as every environmental concern dismissed offhand will create more who are anti-fracking. When I went to a panel discussion on this, the industry representatives were so ill-prepared and so dismissive of the public’s concerns, I left knowing I could have done a better job representing the industry, and I’m not, as you can tell, a supporter of the methodology (technological or public relations). The public is smarter than you are giving them credit for, and it’s high time for the gas extraction industry to come into the 21st century.

  • Susan

    I was there in the rotunda of the Capitol and there were quite a few more than “a few hundred”! We filled the main hall, the main staircase and most of the balcony. Get your facts straight! We both know that reporters slant their stories to fit their audience. It was estimated that there were AT LEAST 300 people there, and probably closer to 500, not bad for a week day citizen rally. However, quite a few of our legislators were “in meetings”, holed up like our cowardly governor who refused to open the doors to his reception room (not his office). There were also police for us “terrorists”. He has also refused to meet with Josh Fox, who has called, emailed, faxed and written to request a meeting! The governor has also refused to meet with other people, including (a couple of weeks ago) representatives for the handicapped! We all know that he is a one-term governor, just greasing the wheels for his fossil fuel buddies. He will then take a consulting job with the boys he handed our water, land and air to. What a lovely person.

  • Felicia Sam

    Getting 200 people to prepare for and get to Harrisburg is no small feat.  That is an awesome turnout.  And, no, folks were NOT ‘shipped in from New York.” There was a literal bus full of folks who left Pittsburgh @ 6AM in addition to many more driving across the state in their own vehicle.  Not to even mention the contingency from Philadelphia and central PA.   Me thinks the opposition may be a little jealous.

  • Anonymous

    They are really getting nervous about the grassroots movement to stop the Fracking of PA. You cannot help feeling sorry for them as the gas companies are not the sharpest tacks in the box!

  • Angelo S

    Did PA State Rep. Stephen Bloom write this article?
    Whoevever did it didn’t bother to take credit for it.

    If Bloom did write it that puts him in the category of status quo political class on this critical issue.

    He can’t seem to generate an original thought for himself — regurgitating someone else’s words.

    I’ve got news for the writer if he is in fact a state rep. — The informed minority is growing and they are well equipped to shorten the political careers of pols who sell out their state constitutional rights to a clean environment.

    After all if the politicians can’t act like grown-ups somebody has to.

  • Jim Willis

    No Angelo, I wrote it, as I do all of the articles appearing on this site. – Jim

  • Anonymous

    Here’s more: On the same day 200 gas protesters showed up in Harrisburg, 1,000 advocates concerned about long-term care gathered on the other side of the Capitol Building. The 1,000 were largely ignored by media that painted the “200” — most of them the same local advocacy group members who always show up — as a groundswell movement. That “200” figure didn’t even match what the groups themselves were predicting in blog postings and touting in advance media coverage prior to the event.

  • Area Man

    Ugh, Glenn I am with you 100%.
    I as well am an industry geologist and have attended a number of public forums and am VERY disappointed with the behavior of both sides.  The public discussion has gotten way out of hand – the industry employs either a “be quiet and say nothing” or “direct full-out attack” approach, both of which are terribly ineffective and counter-productive tactics in this environment, and do nothing to address actual concerns being brought forward.
    Conversely, much of the opposition groups are over-utilizing hyperbole and hearsay, focusing on issues that are blown out of proportion and/or mixing fact with fiction, substituting issues freely (I’ve commented more than a few times on the difference between methane contamination and frack water contamination, for example).
     “You have no regard for human life, only the almighty dollar”.  “Typical liberal tree-hugger, back to your hut”.  Sadly, both are actual quotes.
    These statements help no one and serve only to whip everyone into a fervor.  The attitude is more about winning the fight versus the other side, instead of coming up with solutions beneficial to all parties involved.
    There are very real issues and detrimental effects that this industry presents which must be mitigated and regulated.
    However, there is also a lot of good science that goes on and work to be responsible stewards – it would be in everyone’s interest to get back to a science based discussion.

  • Deanna Bitetti

    “A relatively small group of people who oppose drilling in the
    Marcellus—indeed people who are demanding a total ban on gas
    drilling—seem to get a lot of press coverage, while a majority who
    support it get relatively little press coverage.” This statement is a bit disingenuous considering 

    the natural gas industry is spending millions on campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures to influence public policy decision making. This includes spending millions on radio, tv advertisements and billboards to influence public opinion. Grassroots activism is the only avenue for ordinary citizens and voters to compete with the big money special interest dollars being poured into influencing the legislative process.

  • Jim Willis

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment.

  • Pingback: Anti-Drilling Event Fizzles Like A Wet Firecracker | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative()

  • Anonymous

    This is a completely misleading report. I was there… as were approximately 600 others from across the state. Even Fox News called this the “biggest environmental protest against gas drilling to date.”See for yourself:,0,2297685.story

  • Anonymous

    200 people is total BS. It was more like 600. I was there, and so was Fox News:,0,2297685.story 

  • Anonymous

    I was too, and Susan is correct. Now that the message, as well as the truth, is getting out there, the next one will be even bigger. In Solidarity… across the state of PA and the US.

  • Anonymous

    Another biased, misleading, and inaccurate (industry inspired/funded) report by the “Marcellus Shilling Noose”. But, please keep it up. You guys are making our case for us.

  • Jim Willis

    Hey, thanks. I didn’t know my little blog warranted its own mock name. Cool!

  • Alexander Lotorto

    Hey Jim, how long have you lived in Pennsylvania? Where?

  • Jim Willis

    I don’t live in PA but across the border in NY.

  • Angelo S

    “You lie” CitizenSane1. There was no crowd there. That was a photoshopped video.
    It was edited. And Josh Fox wasn’t really there. That was an overlayed clip from Gasland.
    Oh and the phantom Navy Seals (who all died when the chopper crashed) really did get Osama-Bin-La-dead-Ten-Years.

  • Angelo S

    Takes a big man to admit his mistakes Jim. If it ain’t bleeding or on fire the mainstream press is in-and-out. Who knows how long reporters were there? It’s not your fault Jim.  

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