Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking film Gasland, led a celebrity bus tour through the town of Dimock, PA on Thursday. Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and Susan Sarandon were all on board and spoke to the media about their opposition to the gas drilling process.
The official name of the group participating in the bus tour is Artists Against Fracking. It's a group organized to lobby Governor Andrew Cuomo against allowing fracking in New York. The bus tour was part of that effort, designed to draw media attention to the anti-fracking cause.
In addition to Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon, Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mahatma, participated in the tour. "We have to recognize that we are committing violence against nature,
against resources, against environment and eventually this is going to
destroy us, destroy humanity," he told the Huffington Post.
The tour stopped at various fracking-related sites in Dimock, including the homes of individuals who claim their wells were contaminated by chemicals connected to fracking. One Dimock family who has made this claim are the Sautners. Touting plastic jugs of muddy water, they claim fracking contaminated their well with chemicals including "weapons grade" uranium. When the EPA tested their water and found it safe to drink, they were not happy with the results:
The Sautners' home was apparently not on the tour, but a man named Ray Kemble's home was. Like the Sautners, Kemble claims his water was contaminated after a gas well was put in across the street from him. The EPA tested wells in Dimock last year and in July issued a report stating that the water was safe to drink. At the time the results were released, Kemble told the AP, "I don’t care what EPA says. The water is still polluted." Yoko Ono posted a photo on Twitter holding a jug of water which supposedly came from Kemble's well.
There was a surprise when the tour stopped at Kemble's home. Phelim McAleer, co-director of the pro-fracking film FrackNation, arrived with his own camera crew. McAleer attempted to interview Susan Sarandon as she got off the bus to deliver jugs of clean water to Mr. Kemble. She ignored McAleer's questions and instead commented on his hat. "I like your hat," she quipped. "Where'd you get your hat?"
The tour was also trailed by a couple of oil and gas industry representatives who followed in their own cars throughout the day. Tom Shepard, who works for a group called Energy in Depth, told Huffington Post, "I just want to see what they are saying."
Under Governor Cuomo, the state of New York has been studying the safety of fracking for four years. A report leaked to the New York Times and produced nearly a year ago concluded that the process is safe for groundwater, but the report was never released. The state was supposed to issue a final decision on fracking last year, but at the last moment the Governor bowed to pressure from environmental groups and re-started the public comment process again. A final decision is expected in February, which is why anti-fracking forces are trying to whip up negative media attention about the drilling process now.
Photo: Yoko Ono via Facebook