Marcellus Shale Earth First! Aerial Blockade Celebrates 2 Weeks

27 Sep


To get directly involved, reach a spokesperson for comment, or donate supplies (tarps, blankets, bulk foods, hand warmers, ropes, harnesses, carabiners, winter boots/clothing, etc.) please contact


Just south of the “New York” and “Pennsylvania” border a battle is raging to defend the Loyalsock state forest in what isknown as Sullivan County, PA, about a half hour north of what is known as the city of Williamsport which lies at the southernmost part of traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy territory. The high elevation wetlands, and mature forest ecosystems of Loyalsock are home to rare and threatened species such as the Timber Rattlesnake, Northern Water Shrew, Wild Sasparilla, and carnivorous Pitcher Plants. 114,494 acres of this lush forest sit atop the Marcellus Shale, an underground formation that spans from West Virginia to as far north as Ithaca, NY. Houston based corporation Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (APC) has been craving to penetrate this shale formation. APC has proposed developing 26 fracking well-padsalong with multiple pipelines, access roads, and other supporting infrastructure which are poised to devastate the lively streams that sustain all animal and plant life in the Loyalsock. In nearby, Sproul State Forest, Anadarko has spilled over 12,000 gallons of carcinogenic drilling mud. Andarko was also a key investor in British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in 2010 killing 11 workers and releasing 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico forever altering the ecosystem. APC was ordered to pay $272 million towards cleaning up the Gulf. Anadarko refused.

People united under the banner of, Marcellus Shale Earth First! (MSEF!), whose tagline is, “No Drilling! No Compromise!”, have sworn to defend the Loyalsock forest from Anadarko’s ecocidal ways.  On September 13th, two weeks ago today, the first aerial blockade was erected at the site of a proposed well pad. Should Anadarko continue with their plans, activists say there could be many more blockades in this forest. High in the canopy of the forest  sits a brave tree sitter on a platform who chooses to identify themselves as Hellbender, the name of the giant salamander of the North East who makes it’s home in the Loyalsock forest. 

A tree sit like this is a form of direct action in which people use their bodies to directly prevent trees from being cut. This type of action being taken by MSEF! protestors is an example of how communities can directly engage with their oppressor and reclaim their right to be an agent of change when external governing bodies are not only unreliable, but may be under the direct influence of or in cohorts with the oppressor. Current models of organizing, based off of the NGO trope popularized by groups such as the Sierra Club and, continue to direct their attention towards Washington DC. In just about every article written by Bill McKibben, founder of the $5M/yr. Rockefeller funded,, McKibben makes some appeal for Obama to “make the right decision.” This kind of blind faith (or carefully calculated wording) urges followers of McKibben to continue to invest in a power structure rooted in patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism; the perfect conditions to ensure that projects like the destruction of the Loyalsock forest, and other commodifications of the earth, continue.

Many people living in communities in Pennsylvania that are being directly impacted by the hydraulic fracturing company know that they cannot wait for Obama to, “make the right decision”, or spend all of their time encouraging him or other politicians to. At the only public hearing that was held about the decision to frack in the Loyalsock forest, MSEF! called out members of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that they identified as being complicit in this state sanctioned ecocide. Over 350,000 fracking wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania and countless ecosystems have been disrupted. In addition, people who live in places where frack wells have been developed have experienced a range of drilling-related health impacts including headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, eye irritation, and breathing problems. Well water has been poisoned, farms have been rendered incapable of sustaining animal and plant life, and many fear that fracking earthquakes, like the 109 that were proven to be directly linked to ground injection of wastewater from fracking projects in Youngstown, Ohio, will begin to rock Pennsylvania.

Communities know that they cannot wait for the government to protect them. Last July (2012) MSEF! engaged in the first ever shut down of a fracking well pad in the so-called “United States” utilizing the tactics of tree sits, lockdowns, and slash piles. The blockade, in the Moshannon State Forest, received international support as well as local support with reports of people from neighboring farms delivering cases of bottled water and bundles of fresh picked blueberries to the blockaders whom they thanked profusely for their actions.

From high atop the canopy of the Loyalsock forest, the tree sitter using their body to keep Aandarko out has delivered several dispatches. Part of the message issued on the first day of the sit reads: “We will be on the ground and in the trees in force. Let us not forget what is at stake here: Thousands of acres of beautiful forest, watersheds of several exceptional streams and habitat for federally recognized threatened and soon to be threatened wildlife. The line in the sand has been drawn under this tree sit! I am not asking the DCNR and Anadarko nicely any more. They are preoccupied in boardrooms and business meetings planning on the next place they will destroy for profit. Defend the Loyalsock at all cost. You have our undivided attention and that is bad luck for you.” The communique was signed, “Love and Rage, Hellbender!”

The science is in, fracking is extremely dangerous for the environment and for animals, including human beings. Esteemed academics such as engineer Dr. Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University, have done extensive research to prove this. Communities in Pennsylvania are being left high and dry –literally, when drinking wells are frequently being poisoned— by the governing bodies who are supposed to protect them. Because many NGO’s “leading” the mainstream environmental movement continue to operate within a context that focuses on the more privileged segments of society and invests in power structures who have failed to protect the people or earth, communities on the frontlines being most impacted by the environmental degradation caused by fracking are not getting the support that they need. Frontline communities are often those that are caught more directly in the crosshairs of oppressive systems and therefore typically lack class, race, gender, and citizenship privileges.

Communities like those working with MSEF! are overcoming all odds to defend themselves against an industry that seeks to destroy them. People who occupy more privileged positions in society must use use those positions to direct public attention and funds to the efforts of these community led initiatives. MSEF! are in the woods to protect public health and safety against deadly fracking infrastructure and they need our support. Please donate funds to keep this blockade running and Andarko out of Loyalsock Forest! To get directly involved or donate supplies (tarps, blankets, bulk foods, hand warmers, ropes, harnesses, carabiners, winter boots/clothing, etc.) please contact


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