Energy. Environment. Economy.

Fractures in the Anti-Fracking Movement

Tom MacDonald / WHYY/Newsworks

Anti-fracking activists protest gas drilling at Philadelphia's Love Park. Some activist groups are critical of the Environmental Defense Fund for working with industry.

Discord over how to best protect the environment from impacts of natural gas drilling has led to a coalition of grassroots environmental groups shunning the Environmental Defense Fund. The groups plan to hold a conference call on Wednesday to “send a message…disapproving of [EDF's] willingness to be coopted by industry interests on the issue of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.”

EDF recently drew the ire of fractivists when it announced its participation in The Center for Sustainable Shale Gas Development, a collaboration with energy companies and philanthropical organizations to develop performance standards related to protecting air and water quality. EDF is the only national environmental group to join the coalition, which also includes PennFuture, Group Against Smog and Pollution, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. [CSSD includes two organizations that also provide funds to StateImpact Pennsylvania: the Heinz Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.]

Critics say the Center is just a way for the industry to gain good publicity, and simply exploits its connection with EDF to suggest that a large consensus of environmentalists are on board.

The Environmental Defense Fund does seem like the only green friend working at the national level that the industry has left. At a panel discussion during an industry conference in Philadelphia last September, an EDF employee pleaded with industry representatives in the audience to do all they can to prevent environmental damage or leave the organization hanging out on a limb.

On its website, EDF describes itself as “passionate, pragmatic environmental advocates who believe in prosperity and stewardship.” It believes in working directly with industry, and using market forces to enact change.

EDF senior vice president Eric Pooley says his organization understands and supports the rights of others to oppose fracking. But he says as long as fracking is currently taking place, EDF’s approach is to fight for greater regulation.

“We think that a voluntary organization in support of strong standards can build a coalition that’s not just energy companies,” said Pooley, “but investors and communities as well. We’re trying to create leverage here and opposition is a part of that. There’s room for all these approaches to work, they go hand in hand.”

Pooley says EDF works with grassroots groups at the state level, and does not claim to be the voice of the anti-fracking movement. He points to the organizations’ support of municipalities challenging Act 13 on the basis of local pre-emption. And the group employs scientists who are working on issues regarding methane leaks from well sites, as well casing standards that would prevent damage to water supplies.

“We’re not trying to foist hydraulic fracturing on anyone,” he said. “We’re not saying everything is fine. Where we differ with some of our friends [in the environmental movement] is that CSSD is a helpful step. We don’t think the genie is going back in the bottle.”


  • TheProspector

    You have to remember that most of the “environmental” groups simply want NEVER to have gas wells in their back yard. There is obviously no sense in improving regulations if that is your goal. They had and have no problems with fracking in Texas or Louisiana — just not near their playgrounds.

    • DoryHippauf

      have you checked out towns in TX and LA lately? Lots of problems there with gas wells and related infrastructure that the industry doesn’t talk about.

      • TheProspector

        My point is that the leading anti-frackers in the Northeast would not give a whit about any problems in TX if they weren’t concerned about their back yard and their “view”. They’ll use TX as a way to get what they want at home.

        • glb

          I’m a resident of NYS who doesn’t live on the shale and I am extremely concerned with what this industry is doing all over the country and the world. This is an environmental issue, a public health issue and a human rights issue and it ultimately affects all of us and future generations.

  • Scott Brion

    Thanks to the EDF. Fracking is providing well over a third of the US natural gas supply and it is not going away, so it is great to see proactive attention to the very real impacts from natural gas development that can be improved by engaging industry and stakeholders.

  • DoryHippauf

    EDF = EINO ENVIRONMENTAL in name only. They claim to not take industry money, but they’ll take it from universities which take industry money. Nothing like doing a little laundry to make it look clean

  • russ honicker

    Fracking is so polluting it was given a pass on federal clean air, water, and hazardous waste laws in 2005. Regulating at this point means regulating the public perception.
    EDF works with the gas industry by regulating the public perception, rather than defending the environment from known destruction.

  • nancy matejka

    With all the problems they are having in Pa. It is very apparent they don’t have enough information or know the dire side affects from “Horizontal” Drilling. Our clean water is precious, once they contaminate it we will never get it back!

  • GASP

    GASP contributed input on the air standards, over the course of several years of discussions. Simply put, the CSSD will lead to less air and water pollution from any company that adopts the standards. Please see more information on why we chose to participate in this process here:

  • Michelle BarlondSmith

    as a person dealing with the tarsand oil and pipelines (which by the way uses the same chemicals and is producing the same problems) I have found similar situations … the organizations who say the genie is out of the bottle and therefore we have to fix the regulations … are quite often are those getting financial support and sitting on the fence.. while citizens whose lives are destroyed and inpacted are left unsupported. As the politico’s are elected and then leave office and the industry’s stuff the politicos fund raising pockets … and former industry personel are placed in federal agencies IE PHMSA DOE the system is broken and it will be up to the people to make the changes. So if you want to support change … support the people

  • Joshua B. Pribanic

    It’s important to remember what “Best Management Practices” plays out as in reality. And that w/ BMP & CSSD’s compliance with the law it doesn’t mean a company can’t illegally bury a waste pit or damage an EV wetland. See examples of companies in compliance within PA’s most heavily regulated environments in Triple Divide:

  • Christina Lee Countryman

    With our little band of walkers, we are bringing in an undercurrent of
    love, gratitude, compassion and yes also truth telling and grieving,
    intent on a healing that will grow.
    Please pray for us!

  • winterarrives

    Fugitive methane emissions from gas production are estimated to be as high as 9%, Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 . Gas production releases CO2 as well, it’s a finite resource and massive amounts of water are taken out of the cycle, the waste is radioactive, no voluntary best practices are going to fix this. it cost 7 million dollars to drill one well, can you imagine if that $ was spent on renewable sustainable energy?

    • Joanne Fiorito

      what they don’t say is when methane in the air starts breaking down, it turns into CO2……and when you burn methane it emits CO2

  • Joanne Fiorito

    “….We don’t think the genie is going back in the bottle.”

    what is dumb is continuing to let that GENIE out of that bottle….

    btw, EDF….yer problem is… you DON’T THINK beyond where your next donation allotment is coming from…

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