Did Somebody Say Direct Action? What’s Missing from the Victory Narrative


by Sasha / Earth First! Journal

We have heard a lot about what stopped the fracking boom in New York after Governor Cuomo banned it last week.

While some insist that faltering prices that did the gas boom in, others credit the seven-year legal battle with stopped the practice. The running narrative is that it’s a combination of grassroots political involvement—going to public hearings, submitting comments, and doing ecological studies. But there’s another element people aren’t talking about as much.

What we don’t hear about is the intense blossoming of direct action that has generated a network of several Earth First! groups who have been working diligently to shut down fracking operations and natural gas infrastructure for the last six years. This movement spans a gamut of tactics, from protests to blockades to other escapades. It has been upsetting business as usual, costing the corporations money and the politicians credit.

In short, it’s working.

EF! in the Mix

The Marcellus Shale Earth First! Network sprung into action soon after the first wells started getting tested, and rapidly assembled several groups around the Marcellus, including Hudson Valley EF! (HVEF!) and Finger Lakes EF! (FLEF!), which have been active in direct action struggles.

In May of this year, Hudson Valley Earth First! (HVEF!) disrupted the 9th annual Northeast Power and Gas Markets Conference in New York City, sending home the message that fracking would not be accepted in the state.

Other groups involved have been Susquehanna Valley EF!, Genessee Valley EF!, and Occupy WELL Street.

“This campaign has been going on for almost two years, but now it’s getting serious,” said April Rogers, a member of HVEF! “If trucks show up, we’ll be there to stop them!”

Indeed, two years before the disruption in NYC, HVEF! stopped construction on a compressor station in Minisink, NY, along the Millenium Pipeline.

EF! has been engaged in this movement since the Newswire has been in existence, protesting outside of public hearings, drawing a spotlight with outrageous actions, and growing the movement.

In Winter of last year, MSEF! went on an extensive tour of New York and Pennsylvania, spreading the good word about direct action against fracking after a crucial victory defending the Loyalsock State Forest from fracking in Pennsylvania.

As the collective put it at the time, “MSEF! is a creative and growing movement, and sharing our struggle with others around PA and NY made it clear that the campaign to defend the Loyalsock is one that will unite many people.”

Prior to halting fracking in the Loyalsock, MSEF! engaged in a prolonged campaign against the Tennessee Pipeline through a lockdown, two consecutive treesits, and a two-week road blockade matched with a nine-day treesit.

The MSEF! network also shut down fracking operations in the Tiadaghton State Forest earlier this year and blockaded fracking trucks in the Moshannon State Forest in 2012.

Despite tremendous resistance, fracking in Pennsylvania is still going on, and activists continue to work to shut it down.

The Infrastructure Fight Still Needs Support

While the EF! network has been holding action camps and engaging in a number of campaigns, perhaps the largest of the area’s anti-gas struggles has been the We Are Seneca Lake campaign.

In a three-week blockade this November, 19 people were arrested halting construction of Crestwood Midstream’s gas storage facility on Seneca Lake.

Just this month, more than 100 people attended a demonstration outside of the court where the arrested were being arraigned. That day, nine more people were arrested locking themselves to the gates of Crestwood’s facility.

This came after a peaceful blockade in March which saw the arrest of 12 activists. Three more were arrested at their trial in April.

In total, some 92 people have been arrested in the movement to halt the Crestwood facility—a rousing campaign that is ongoing and needs your support!

If the movement against gas transport and storage is still raging in New York, its visibility has thrown the spotlight on the controversial practice of fracking as well. Chesapeake EF! is involved in the ongoing campaign against fracking exports in the Maryland Cove Point facility, and other campaigns continue to build steam.

Movement Builders

The victory in New York is a key movement builder, because it helps us recognize the components that make them happen, and focus on the campaigns that need support with greater numbers and resources.

Direct action is just one piece of the larger puzzle to stop industrial exploitation and destruction of land and livelihood. And, with community rights movements, legal battles, and protest movements, it’s winning.

It is important to note that these actions have taken place not just in New York, but in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well. This is a bioregional struggle, and claiming success in New York is not the end. The movement to stop fracking won’t stop at legal battles; it relies on the vigilance of communities impacted by the unsafe practices, and it will continue to expand throughout the Marcellus Shale until all fracking operations are shut down once and for all.

No Compromise!

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