Convention protesters call for halt to gas drilling

    Hundreds of protesters lined the sidewalks near the Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday, calling for a halt to natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

    Josh Fox, director of the film “Gasland,” called on Philadelphians to join him in urging the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban fracking in areas that drain into the river.

    “If they tell us they’re going to allow fracking in your watershed, it’s time to get in the paddy wagon,” Fox yelled to the crowd, which was waving signs that said “Ban fracking now” and “Stop the drilling.”

    “It’s time to say ‘You know what, we are taking a stand now!’ ” he said

    The Delaware River Basin Commission intends to announce regulations for gas drilling at a meeting in October, presumably ending the current moratorium.

    At the rally, a Susquehanna County woman talked about drinking water she says has been contaminated by gas drilling. Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown took the stage and called fracking a public health hazard.

    The rally coincided with an industry conference inside the Convention Center, where executives from gas drilling companies and elected officials talked in far more positive terms about the future of the Pennsylvania gas boom.

    Organizers of the conference sent out an e-mail last week warning participants not to engage with protesters, and suggested not using the main entrance in order to avoid them. Police at the event said they had had no complaints of confrontation.

    Tony Mazzio, a protester from South Philly, was surprised by the convention staff’s warning.

    “I think it’s funny, but I think it’s unwarranted,” Mazzio said. “Everybody here seems really peaceable, really nice. There are people who seem to very elderly, nobody seems to be hateful or violent.”

    The event was one of a half-dozen scheduled to coincide with the two-day gas industry gathering.

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