Anti-fracking protesters followed through on their promise to disrupt Governor Tom Wolf’s inauguration ceremony Tuesday. Eight people were arrested after they interrupted Wolf’s speech by shouting and whistling from the audience– urging him to ban fracking.
Six of the people arrested were Pennsylvania citizens. One was from Ohio and another person was from New Jersey. All were charged with disorderly conduct by the Capitol Police. Several hundred more protesters were kept about 100 yards away from the ceremony and loudly chanted “Ban fracking now!” throughout the program.
Wolf addressed the activists directly in his speech, saying that Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including gas.
“To the protesters here today, I say: help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable.”
That was the only mention Wolf made of natural gas in his speech. The Democrat ran on a pledge to enact a five percent extraction tax on gas and recently said he wants his administration to be a partner with the drilling industry to help it succeed.
Despite Wolf’s positions, anti-fracking activists remain hopeful they can make their case to him. They recently formed a new coalition called Pennsylvanians Against Fracking in an effort to push for a statewide ban.
“We believe that we’re dealing with somebody who is open to reality and who wants to make the right decisions,” Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum says of Wolf.
Several of the group’s leaders were heavily involved in the push to prohibit fracking in New York, which proved successful late last year when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would ban it.
“Even though there’s not 1,000 people here, like the last time we were in Albany, you’re seeing the beginnings of that process,” says Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “We’re trying to start the dialogue so the movement grows.”
Filmmaker Josh Fox, who made the anti-fracking documentary Gasland, said that even though Pennsylvania’s political landscape differs from New York, he’s hopeful.
“Call me optimistic, but I’ve always believed the truth will prevail,” he said.
Note: this story has been updated to reflect the following clarification. Although the Pennsylvania State Police detained the protesters, they were formally arrested and charged by the Capitol Police.