Aeryn Boyd and Kimberly Alexander are walking the length of the C&O Canal in Maryland to draw attention to legislation that would ban fracking in Maryland.
Alexander, who lives on a farm in western Maryland, says she’s walking to protect the water.
“There are fracking wells that surround us in Pennsylvania,” Alexander told Russell Mokhiber of This Week in Morgan County. “Garrett and Allegheny counties are where fracking will begin if we allow it in Maryland. We are at Ground Zero. There is fracking infrastructure surrounding us.”
Boyd and Alexander carry with them a bottle of polluted drinking water that they retrieved from a farm in Dimock, Pennsylvania, where fracking has poisoned drinking water wells.
“We spoke with a family in Dimock,” Boyd said. “They did not sign a lease contract. They didn’t have a fracking well pad on their property. And their well water was contaminated. It was bright orange. We lit it on fire.”
“It was one of 18 wells in Dimock that were contaminated,” Alexander said. “This family — the Ely family — has to go into town, collect their water, drive it back home. They can’t use the water in their toilets or shower in it. The water is off gassing chemicals. They have rashes.”
“They get headaches, nausea,” Boyd added. “The water is toxic.”
“And clearly they can’t drink it,” Alexander says. “And there is a lot of psychological damage.”
(Cabot Oil & Gas had refused an offer the settle a lawsuit brought by two families — the Huberts and the Elys — that the fracking operations polluted the families well water in Dimock. The case went to trial and earlier this year a federal jury in Scranton, Pennsylvania awarded two families $4.2 million. The company is appealing the award.)
Along their walk, Boyd and Alexander are drawing crowds to support them and the statewide ban on fracking.
In Frostburg, more than 120 people showed up at a city council meeting for a rally against fracking.
And more than 50 people joined Boyd and Alexander in Hancock to protest against a Columbia Gas proposal to put a gas pipeline under the C&O Canal and Potomac River.
Boyd and Alexander are walking from Garrett County to Cove Point, where Dominion Energy is building a $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas facility for to export gas to foreign markets.
“We are following the gas and showing the infrastructure across the state,” Alexander said. “There will be more infrastructure downstate, and not just in Garrett County. The export facility at Cove Point is being built by Dominion — the same company that built the compressor station in Myersville in western Maryland.”
Boyd said that in the run up to the legislative session in Annapolis in January 2017, communities around the state — including Friendsville, Maryland, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County — are enacting fracking bans.
“As more and more communities ban fracking, the momentum going into the legislative session is growing,” Boyd said.
There is currently a two-year moratorium on fracking in Maryland that is set to expire in October 2017.
“While researching the hazards of fracking, we are also researching the benefits of alternative energy and how to make that possible, to subsidize that instead of oil and gas,” Alexander said.
When asked what transformed them from observers to activists, Boyd said — “we need leadership.”
“We need people willing to say — this is the most important thing to do right now because of how dangerous it is,” Boyd said. “It’s not just about young people. In Frostburg, there were people of every age there. Every age was represented. This affects everyone.”
But isn’t it true that most people are not acting, just sitting at home observing?
“There is a cost to that convenience of sitting at home, relaxing,” Alexander said. “And that’s our happiness and our health. This walk is permaculture. We are going out and planting seeds of this paradigm shift toward a more earth friendly practice and recognizing the importance of water. When people come out and engage in these actions, you get to feel how wonderful it is to be a part of your community and how wonderful it is to connect with the earth.”
“And how motivating it is,” Boyd added.