Pa. shale controversy sparks fear of violence

    State and federal law enforcement agencies have begun monitoring the activities of activists who oppose natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

    A bulletin from the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security expresses concern that both drilling opponents and advocates could turn violent.

    Gov. Rendell’s office says several acts of vandalism have hit drilling facilities in the last two weeks. A few involved firearms. But spokesman Michael Smith says no evidence has been found to connect drilling foes to those acts.

    This week, the online news service ProPublica published a Pennsyvania Intelligence Bulletin that details F-B-I concerns about militant environmentalists targeting the state’s burgeoning gas drilling industry. The Bulletin listed a number of events that could be attended by natural gas drilling protestors, including a Philadelphia screening of the anti-drilling documentary Gasland.

    But Governor Rendell says state law enforcement personnel are not targeting the protestors.

    No, I don’t believe that for a minute and if they’re doing it they’re certainly not doing it with my consent

    Rendell says he does want the activists to change their strategy.

    “I spent twenty minutes with each group of protestors and I told them that I respected their opinion but it’s not anything that’s feasible and shale drilling is gonna continue because of its economic upside and they should re-direct their attention toward getting appropriate and fair shale tax. “

    Some environmentalists have called for a moratorium on gas drilling in the state until impact studies could be conducted on the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing.

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