Shalom Center Frowns Upon ‘Fracking’



The Shalom Center was among about a dozen organizations invited last week to testify before a joint committee of the Philadelphia City Council on the impact of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region.

More than 200 people filled the room for the four-hour hearing, said a council staff member.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the center's founder and director, joined anti-drilling activists who lobbied council to oppose gas developments for fear that they could lead to deforestation, contaminated water and toxic spills.

Though the Marcellus Shale doesn't extend into Philadelphia, city water officials and environmentalists have expressed concern that the hydraulic fracturing process known as fracking, which uses high-pressure injections of fluid to break down rock formations that contain natural gas, could leak harmful chemicals into the Schuylkill or Delaware rivers.

These two sources supply Philadelphians with the majority of their drinking water.

Industry advocates have argued that drilling would create jobs, generate revenue and reduce dependence on foreign oil. They pointed to places where fracking had been used without signs of contamination.

Waskow dismissed those examples, saying he had yet to see any independent studies of the environmental impacts.

If drilling companies won't wait for that, he added, "that's a warning to the rest of us that something not kosher is going on and we better insist on a moratorium while we go look."

While most Jewish groups have remained silent about the project, some individuals have been supportive of it.

Bob Guzzardi, a conservative activist and real estate investor from Ardmore, wasn't at the hearing, but has taken an airplane tour of exploratory sites in western Pennsylvania.

"The arguments against it are ideological antibusiness and scare tactics," he said.

Any potential environmental issues are "very manageable and have been managed," said Guzzardi. "We have plenty of watchdogs on anything wrong that these businesses may be doing. I'm not interested in being poisoned, I'm interested in having lower cost energy."



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