In Pennsylvania Coal Country, Voters Not Thrilled With Their Choices (Uniontown, Pa.)
This is coal country, even if there's hardly any coal anymore. The elders can name the coal veins and describe their dimensions. People will still say, "I grew up in the patch." That means they were raised in a cluster of company houses back in a hollow near the mouth of a mine. The kids would play king-of-the-hill on gobheaps of broken slate and mining waste.
The company houses are still there, but the gobheaps are overgrown. Hidden in the brush are the ruins of the beehive ovens that turned coal into coke and blackened the skies along the western slope of the Alleghenies.
The big play now is natural gas. Fayette County, which borders West Virginia about an hour's drive south of Pittsburgh, is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale. Civic leaders hope that fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock to liberate the gas in its pores — can reverse the fortunes of this depressed region.
This part of Pennsylvania is a political and economic battleground, a transitional place loaded with history, with memories of prosperity but also of vicious poverty. It's on the front line of America's economic doldrums, and it is not incidentally a swing county in presidential elections.
In response to a call for solidarity from the Save Riverdale campaign, Occupy Cleveland will drive 4 and a half hours to Jersey Shore, PA to stand with Riverdale residents in a blockade to prevent the fracking industry from evicting 37 families from their homes.
On June 1, 2012, residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park and supporters set up barricades at the entrance of Riverdale to stop the community from being displaced by Aqua America's plans to construct a fracking water withdrawal facility and send a powerful message to perpetrators of environmental and economic injustice. Occupy Cleveland stands with the Occupy Wall Street movement in national support and solidarity with the residents of Riverdale against Aqua America.
Waterways in the commonwealth are considered publicly owned if they are, or have ever been, used for commercial trade or travel. The list and maps of the waterways compiled by DCNR include hundreds of streams throughout the state's Marcellus Shale region.
Where the state owns the streambeds, it also owns the mineral rights beneath them.
DCNR spokeswoman Christina Novak said the state is developing a standard agreement for companies who either want to drill horizontal wellbores under streams or who will, through hydraulic fracturing, draw gas from rock formations deep under the waterways. Unlike standard lease agreements for drillers who operate in state forests, the leases will not address surface impacts because there won't be any on state property, she said.
"This would just allow an operator to access underneath a navigable waterway from nearby but to compensate the commonwealth because it is the owner of the resource," she said.
The agency alerted gas drillers in March that the state would begin seeking compensation through lease payments and royalties for gas removed under the waterways.