Alumnus leads students in anti-fracking movement
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 08:10
John Rumpler (LA ‘88), senior attorney at Environment America, led a group of 35 individuals in a rally and petition presentation at the Massachusetts State House this past July in support of an anti-fracking bill.
According to junior Dan Jubelirer, one of multiple Tufts students to join Rumpler at the rally, the event was designed to generate excitement about the bill and demonstrate public opposition to in-state fracking. About 11,000 Massachusetts citizens signed the petition, he said.
“It was a demonstration against fracking, but it was more on the legislative side, just really trying to show the sponsors who were at the petition delivery that people supported [the bill] and that if [legislators] pushed for it, they would have the political backing,” Jubelirer said.
Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the process of extracting natural gas by drilling through layers of shale rock.
According to Rumpler, who first became interested in environmental activism during his years at Tufts, the petition was meant to support bill H.788, submitted by State Representatives Peter Kocot (D-Northhampton) and Denise Provost (D-Somerville), along with 12 other co-sponsors, last January.
Rumpler explained that the group hoped to provoke legislative activity after presenting their petitions to the joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. The committee held its first hearing on fracking on Sept. 26.
Currently there are no fracking operations occurring in Massachusetts, Rumpler said. Rather, the bill was introduced as a preemptive measure in response to emerging concerns. Last year, a shale deposit found in the Hartford Basin in Massachusetts caused citizens to become concerned that the western part of the state might become a future fracking site.
Not only do residents of Massachusetts need to be aware of the threat of fracking within the state, but they must also be aware of consequences of fracking in other states, Rumpler said.
“If fracking starts in New York, then millions of gallons of waste water will be generated from fracking there and the operators will be looking to dispose of that waste out of state,” Rumpler told the Daily.
The environmental and health risks of fracking are numerous, Rumpler said. Air pollution, land destruction and water contamination all result from fracking. Waste water from fracking is equally threatening, he said.
“Fracking waste water contains cancer-causing and radioactive material [as well as] naturally occurring toxic material that is buried deep under the ground and comes up to the surface and threatens people and wildlife,” Rumpler said.
The new bill addresses both of these concerns, prohibiting fracking and also preventing waste water from entering the state, according to Rumpler.
If passed, the bill would make Massachusetts the first state to ban fracking, Jubelirer said.
“Massachusetts has the opportunity to lead right now and ban fracking, as opposed to having people protest that it is happening,” he said. “If Massachusetts were to ban [fracking], it would set a precedent.”
The petition rally over the summer was just one of many events showcasing public support for the bill, Rumpler explained. The Global Frackdown, to be held on Oct. 19, along with the Power Shift 2013 conference in Pittsburg, Penn. will also give activists the opportunity to spread awareness in the upcoming months.
The future of the bill is uncertain, but the anti-fracking movement within the state is just beginning, Rumpler added.
“If we continue to build the momentum that we’ve seen so far, our legislators can take action,” he said.
Rumpler recommended ways for students to get involved, including learning the facts about fracking, participating in events addressing the environmental threat and working with Environment America or other similar organizations within the state. Participation, he said, is crucial to the movement.
“We are up against one of the most powerful gas industries in the world,” Rumpler said. “We need concerned citizens to continue to raise their voice and urge legislators to take action.”