Shayna Metz and Beaver County’s Marcellus Awareness Committee Defending Our Water!

Shayna Metz, Center, at Protest

Industry Woman Cycles Against Fracking Current

By Bill Utterback
Beaver County Times

August 4, 2012 – On a cross-country cycling trip created to promote clean water as a priority over Marcellus shale drilling, Shayna Metz of Industry waded into the Youghiogheny River. She was moved to poetry.

“I push against the current … I wade deeper and stand and fight,” she wrote in an online blog.

Metz, a Geneva College graduate, pushed against the surging current of natural gas drilling by serving as project coordinator for the Tour de Frack, a bicycle trip that began July 14 in Butler County and ended July 28-29 on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The cyclists, and a bus full of supporters from western Pennsylvania who joined them, participated in the "Stop the Frack Attack" rally, labeled the first national anti-fracking event.

Fracking is a process in which water, with a variety of chemicals added, is forced underground to fracture shale and vent natural gas deposits. Some people are concerned that the chemicals in the fracking water will leak into freshwater sources.

“It was exciting to be part of the first national fracking rally,” said Metz, whose Industry neighborhood now includes a gas well. “But it was sad to see that we have to march for clean water rights.”

The Tour de Frack crew held a singular place in a rally that drew environmentally conscious people from as far away as Texas and Wyoming, and drew significantly from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, according to Metz.

“We were the only group who got there without using fossil fuel,” she said.

Actually, Metz arrived on the bus with the other area activists. She spent seven days on the bike tour — covering 250 miles, often camping at night — before returning to her 10-month-old daughter, Ayree. Her husband, Jake, also cycled a portion of the tour and marched in Washington.

Metz, a member of the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee, learned significantly from her 400 hours coordinating the Tour de Frack in Butler County.

“Butler County is out in front of us (in Marcellus shale drilling) and people there have had problems with illness and problems with the water,” Metz said. “In Beaver County, I hope it doesn’t get to that point.”

The cyclists carried discolored water from one Butler County woman’s well and collected stories from Pennsylvania residents whose health has been impacted by Marcellus shale drilling. Each cyclist carried one person’s story and shared it each evening at events, often involving music, included in the trip itinerary.

“Everywhere we went, people would come out to the trail and share their stories with us, and we’d carried those with us, too,” Metz said.

Metz was moved by the similarity of the stories.

“The industry says these are isolated events, but the stories we heard we’re the same across four states,” she said.

The weather reminded them of their purpose.

“It rained for three straight days,” she said.

Metz expects to return to the water for her next major project, tentatively titled “Yakking against Fracking.” It will be a kayaking event launched from one of the rivers in Pittsburgh.

Kayaking is a passion for Metz and her husband. They, along with their wedding party, in full wedding attire, kayaked across a pond near the chapel where they were married.

“It took five people to get me in and out of the kayak,” she said.

Metz — who is pursuing a post-graduate degree in international training that will, she hopes, lead her to initiate grass-roots campaigns with residents in other countries — said her experience with the Tour de Frack and her time in Washington were inspiring.

“I got a sense of empowerment. I could feel that people are ready to rise up and push against those with power and money and fight for their rights.”

People prepared “to push against the current … wade in deeper and stand and fight.”

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