Lyndsey Collins: Stakeholder Interview

Pennsylvania native Julie Edgar is a volunteer community advocate and organizer, a committed environmentalist and anti-fracking activist. Edgar joined the fight against natural gas drilling in 2010 and now runs a grassroots activist group called Lehigh Valley Gas Truth.

Q: How did you first get involved in anti-fracking activism?

A: I viewed a screening of Josh Fox’s Gasland (2010), and I was amazed. Here were real residents of Pennsylvania who could set the water out of their taps on fire due to gas drilling. If that doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will. I then heard about a rally that was going to happen in Pittsburgh, the place of my birth and a place that is very dear to my heart. I made up my mind right that minute before I even walked out of the screening room that “I’m inking that in blood. I’m definitely going to go.” It’s something I needed to do, and I committed to it right that minute.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your organization? When was your organization founded? How many members do you have? What kind of activities and events do you do?

A: Of course. Cathy Frankenberg founded Lehigh Valley Gas Truth in fall 2010. Since I took over in January 2012, the group has grown from 150 to over 200 members ranging from college students to senior citizens. We host film screenings, set up tables at public events and festivals, attend lobbying days and participate in rallies, demonstrations and marches. We are funded primarily by money out of my own pocket with a trickle of member donations. I have one New York donor who has written me two generous checks of $60 and $200!

Q: What are your organization’s ultimate goals? What would you like to see for Pennsylvania with regards to fracking?

A: We would like to push for a ban on this inherently contaminating activity, but what some consider a more realistic “ask” (that we may actually get) is a moratorium on permits to drill new wells.

Q: What have been Lehigh Valley Gas Truth’s most important accomplishments?

A: We participated heavily in the campaign to derail the vote of the Delaware River Basin Commission to approve regulations permitting the drilling of shale gas wells in the Delaware River watershed. We are still in a moratorium. We have regularly testified to both the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and regularly lobby our state and federal legislators. We also represented in Washington, D.C., in July at “Stop the Frack Attack” rally where 5,000 people marched in support of the anti-fracking movement. Most recently I received a full scholarship to attend the second phase of national movement building we started in D.C. From March 1-4, 2013 I was in Dallas and Austin, Texas for “Stop the Frack Attack” National Summit.

Q: What would be your advice to someone who believes his or her water or home has been affected by fracking?

A: First immediately notify the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the EPA. Then call your state representative and senator followed by your federal representative and senator. When all of them have failed you (as they always do), contact an Earthjustice lawyer, and your local volunteer grassroots fracking advocates because they will be the ones to bring you water and put their bodies between the drillers and your family.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Yes. I believe it is crucial for citizens of Pennsylvania to know that they are entitled by Natural Law and the Pennsylvania Constitution to clean air and water. Article I, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides as follows: Sec. 27 Natural Resources and the Public Estate The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.