New Play Explores the Crossroads of Fracking, Family and Faith

A new play from the Pittsburgh-based Hatch Arts Collective puts real Pennsylvanians’ experiences of the fracking boom center stage. Driftless is written by Hatch co-founder Paul Kruse, and he says much of the play is rooted in geography and geology.

“What ‘driftless’ means is land that has been untouched by glaciers,” Kruse says. “One of the key ingredients in fracking is sand, and the largest and best naturally occurring supply of ‘frac sand’ is in a region called the Driftless Area, which is in western Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota and northern Iowa.”

That also happens to be where Kruse grew up.

“Two years ago, I did not know that the sand that I walked on as a kid was being dug up, brought to western Pennsylvania and injected into the ground to extract natural gas. In a lot of ways, learning that fact lit the fuse for this project.”

LISTEN: “Your Environment Update for August 3, 2016”

Religion also plays a key role in the play. The narrative is guided by two saints, who share spiritual and scientific wisdom with the characters. Kruse says that empahsis on religion is also rooted in his own experience.

“Growing up, my family was part of a Catholic Worker community, and connecting activism to religion has been a part of my understanding of the world for a very long time. I think people often turn to their deepest beliefs when you’re confronted with something this large.”

Driftless premieres in Pittsburgh on August 11. You can find more info and purchase tickets here.

Reporting by Kara Holsopple. Driftless is supported in part by the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the PNC Charitable Trusts, which also support The Allegheny Front. 

 

Fracking’s Long Reach Stretches into Frack-Free New York

New York’s Finger Lakes region has become one of the hubs of the state’s $3-billion-a-year tourism industry. In recent years, much of that tourism has revolved around the wine industry. But a plan to store the glut of natural gas flowing from Pennsylvania in ancient underground salt caverns near New York’s Seneca Lake has many in wine country worried about the impacts on tourism and water quality.

“We’re fighting this in our backyard because it is not good for this area,” says Lou Damiani, co-owner of Damiani’s Wine Cellar.

Looking out the tasting room window, over the grapevines and across the lake, Damiani can see the US Salt facility where Crestwood Energy wants to store the gas. The company, which now owns US Salt, already stores some natural gas here. But it has filed applications with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to expand that capacity and also store propane and butane. Crestwood would not provide comment for this story.

More than 600 people have been arrested protesting Crestwood’s storage plan. But last year, the DEC found that opponents haven’t provided adequate proof to back up their concerns—although the agency hasn’t given final approvals for the project.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration hasn’t been the greatest ally of the natural gas industry. In 2015, Cuomo banned fracking in New York. And this spring, the state DEC denied water permits for the Constitution natural gas pipeline, a project that will transport gas from Pennsylvania to Albany.

Opponents of Crestwood’s plans want the DEC to continue this trend. Meanwhile, the company and the community are awaiting the state’s decision.

Reporting by Julie Grant