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  • Writer's pictureBrian Keeler

The People Speak- Truth to Power-

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

A recap of the Day of Protest in Wyalusing, PA on November 9th- Brian Keeler

The day of protest started early with the hanging of the accompanying art show at the Blue Heron Gallery in Wyalusing. Abbie Adams, the gallery director helped me hang the show of several local and regional artists, whose work was all centered on depictions of the river. I had hoped for more participation but was pleased with the exhibit nonetheless as an artistic statement and record to support those concerned with the environment of the Susquehanna River.

Upon arriving down at the protest site just before its scheduled start at 11 am I was headed off by the owner of the personal care home. I had contacted the business weeks before to secure their parking lot for the protest participants. However somewhere in the interim, Terry Keeney the owner had seen the publicity for our event and learned that his parking lot was facilitating. He told me to park elsewhere down behind or near the Friedenshutten Monument. I was pleased to see Cain Chamberlin there promptly too, as Cain is director of the Endless Mountains Heritage Foundation. His support and testimonial in the vid that accompanies this essay added important local involvement.

We were joined shortly thereafter, following our walk up from the monument to the protest site by James Lowenstein, the reporter from the Rocket-Courier. James stayed the entire day and even came to the symposium in the evening at the WCC Building's Community Room on Main Street in Wyalusing.

Although chatting with Cain and being interviewed by James I was thinking of my fear that this protest might turn out like Greta Thunberg's initial attempts at protesting global warming, which is to say, solo. There's that now iconic but inspiring photo of Greta protesting climate change by herself in Sweden- but now we know her efforts have produced a world-wide movement. Her passionate advocacy and talk at the UN have inspired many of us.

The day along US Route 6 at the protest was beautifully sun-filled but cold. My worries were soon allayed however as people started arriving. It was heartening to meet many people from various parts of Pennsyvania and New York who had driven in especially for this event. They have been following the development in Wyalusing with the LNG for some time and had been involved with protesting fracking at their Pennsylvania properties or elsewhere.

Hearing the testimonials which I videotaped (and have included here on a link) was perhaps the highlight of the day's event. Firstly, Katie Faull a professor at Bucknell University gave several informal talks there, including one at a closing ceremony at the monument and later a slide show back at the WCC building. One of her revelations through the maps she had presented showed that the LNG's construction had already covered the cemetery of Friedenshutten with about 20 feet of bulldozed earth and paving. The drainage ditch from the plant was shown to be going through the historic site as well.

My favorite testimonial of the day was from Lilly Hollister, a Bradford County resident and representative of the organization called Mothers Out Front. Lilly gave an impassioned denouncement of the plant by saying the the agency that approved the permits for this site should be ashamed and those permits should be revoked immediately. I loved her unvarnished expression of disdain for the desecration of our land that she has seen. I encourage you to click on the link below to listen to all the participants and especially Lilly's- her's is at the end.

There was a reporter there from the Gannett News service (I think that was his agency) that will produce a documentary on the Susquehanna this spring for national airing. The Daily Review in Towanda and the Rocket- Courier in Wyalusing both published front page articles. so the message is getting out that not all are in favor of fracking in Pennsylvania.

The events at the symposium later in town included several speakers who brought facts, science, poetry, music and art to weigh in on the issue. All the presenters spoke or performed from conviction, the belief that this fossil fuel expansion is the wrong way to go. They've seen our history, safety and environment all sacked in a wholesale industrialization of this once pristine area. Brook Lenker, the executive Director of Frack Tracker showed and abundance visual information, maps and graphs that illustrated the vast extent and dangers of Fracking. Vera Scroggins gave an impassioned talk about her experience in opposing fracking in Susquehanna County, PA. I gave a power point presentation on my experience painting this very stretch of the river where the LNG is being planned. Pat Kane performed some of his songs of the river and the Finger Lakes along with some Irish Ballads. Pat composed a song a few years back called, "The Hills Around my Home" and then combined this tune in a vid presentation to some of my paintings of the twin tiers of PA and New York. I was deeply honored at shows Pat to be a sincere advocate for the environment who uses his art to honor the beauty of lands Hibernian and American. Check it out here:

The question is now where to go from here? The day's event on November 9th was satisfying but the vision for the future is uncertain. Looking to the results obtained by those in New York near Watkins Glen to stop a storage facility underneath of Seneca Lake are encouraging yet sobering too. I am not sure there is support in Pennsylvania for a sustained resistance. My ideal scenario would be to see the permits revoked and have the land returned to its natural beauty. Perhaps making this land along the river into a state park, a land easement or greenway preserve would be my goals. It could certainly be an historic site, maybe similar to Williamsburg, VA, a Gettsyburg-like center or a sacred site to honor the native Americans whose ancestors lived there.

The down sides, as reported in a subsequent issue of the Rocket- Courier, the additional permits for the construction have all been issued. Worse yet, the permits to allow shipping of this dangerous material from Wyalusing to a port on the Delaware River near Philadelpia has just been approved. Thy are calling these rail shipments, "train bombs" as they are so dangerous and fraught with all kinds of potential for catastrophes. The land at the LNG site is completely cleared and paved in many places too. And the construction is scheduled to begin in the spring sometime. The disappointment for the protest and the symposium was that there was far less involvement from locals than one would expect- which also meant it was a no-show by any elected officials. It was also dismaying that the local museum or any state agency reps were not in attendance. If the local historical associations are apathetic and show no interest in preserving local history, then what hope is there? Such is my annoyance at local, state and regional organizations.

Video Recap-

The people speak, truth to power - a day for environmental responsibility in Wyalusing. This video documents the day of protest against the LNG construction along the Susquehanna River on November 9th, 2019. It is about 25 minutes in length but well worth the watch as some passionate testimonials are given for clean air and water along with honoring and preserving our history.

Click on the link below to view the video documentary of the event.

Nora and Lilly - two of the participants in the day of protest who speak out against the LNG in Wyalusing on this video.

Katie Faull, a professor at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA is interviewed by James Lowenstein, a reporter for the Rocket- Courier, the Wyalusing weekly paper. Katie has devoted a good part of her academic career to researching the Friedenshutten village, a Moravian settlement along the Susquehanna during the 1760's. The site of the village along with the cemetery has been either bulldozed into oblivion or severley compromised by a drainage ditch according to maps provided by Katie.

Cain Chamberlin, Richard Fitzsimmons and Dave Buck were among those participating in the protest and symposium.

The former historic home Jane and Harry Schulze in Browntown that was destroyed by New Fortress Energy to make way for the their LNG plant.

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