President Barack Obama is heading to Scranton tomorrow to talk about higher education, but the elephant in the gymnasium at Lackawanna College will be fracking.
As Obama touts his new plan to make college more affordable for the middle class, environmental activists already have plans of their own – to line up on the street outside the college to call for a ban on fracking.
Some of the protestors will be following the President from Upstate New York where he began his two-day bus tour this morning with a speech at the University of Buffalo. Drilling is currently off-limits in New York state as Governor Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat who is not joining the President on his stops, continues to postpone a decision on fracking citing ongoing impact studies.
Obama’s recent support for natural gas development as a clean source of domestic energy has disappointed environmentalists like Karen Feridun, founder of the group Berks Gas Truth.
Feridun said she didn’t expect the President she campaigned for to “live up to the hype” of natural gas development.
Production levels reached an all time high for the first half of the year, with companies reporting a collective yield of more than 1 trillion cubic feet of Marcellus Shale gas.
Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said the President won’t be able to ignore the backdrop of the boomtowns of Northeast Pennsylvania.
“The economies are taking off, unemployment rate is very, very low, property values are strong, the economy is really doing well. But there are also parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania that are not allowed to drill,” Toomey said during a visit to the Monroe Energy oil refinery in Trainer on Wednesday.
The moratorium on fracking within the Delaware River Basin has landowners and local officials frustrated. The multi-state commission that governs the watershed is divided on the issue, leaving it up to the Obama Administration to cast the deciding vote.
Republican leaders in Pennsylvania and lobbyists for the industry are hoping to hear words of encouragement on that score when Obama comes to town.
But Democratic Representative Greg Vitali says it will be just as hard for the President to ignore the environmental impacts of fracking during his visit.
“The Scranton area is not that far from Dimock which had an accident which contaminated the water supply up there and has become a focal point for the issue.”
Vitali said the president is also a big booster of renewable energy sources like wind and solar and believes Obama’s support of natural gas won’t translate into drilling everywhere.
Obama will be joined by Scranton native Vice President Joe Biden when he speaks at Lackawanna College around 5 p.m. Friday.