Local Sierra Club chapter says it received gag order over fracking

| 30 Aug 2012 | 03:10

Early on, the Sierra Club’s local New York Atlantic Chapter recognized the environmental hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking), a method of extracting natural gas from the methane-rich Marcellus Shale that lies 6,000 to 9,000 feet below us. In 2009, the group passed a resolution calling for a statewide ban on fracking. The national Sierra Club told the Atlantic chapter to retract this resolution, saying they could not pass a resolution that was not consistent with existent national Sierra Club policy, according to Jurgen Wekerlem, vice chair of the Atlantic Chapter. The Atlantic chapter proposed that the national board allow state chapters to make decisions affecting their states. The national Sierra Club defeated this resolution, according to Wekerlem, and placed a “gag order” on the Atlantic chapter regarding its ban. It later came out that the Sierra Club had accepted over $25 million from the natural gas industry between 2007 and 2010. Since learning about these donations, the new executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, has cut off donations from gas companies and initiated “Beyond Oil” and “Beyond Natural Gas” campaigns. “With the new director, they [national Sierra Club] have come light years in our direction,” Wekerlem told Dirt. “They’ve been supportive of our efforts, and no longer will they take money from gas interests.” But, he said, “we have never been relieved of the gag order in place... We’re ahead of them on this. We’re not backing down on our resolution.” The national Sierra Club has a different story. “There is no such gag order,” Sean Sarah, regional communications manager for the Beyond Coal campaign, wrote in an e-mail. “In fact, the national Sierra Club supports the Atlantic Chapter’s work to get bans on local fracking and the statewide moratorium. We also oppose Governor Cuomo’s rumored lifting of the moratorium to allow fracking in the Southern Tier.” However it happened, it seems the local and national Sierra Club may have managed to find common ground on this issue, and none too soon.