Most of the 20 anti-fracking protesters who picketed in front of the York office of state Sen. Mike Waugh on Tuesday morning were from York County.
Even though none of the natural gas extraction that makes use of the process known as fracking is taking place in York County’s borders, the protesters said they still have plenty of cause for concern — as does every other Pennsylvania resident.
Dillsburg resident Nathan Sooy, of Clean Water Action in Harrisburg, said the main focus of the protest is proposed bills in the state Senate and House that would limit the ability of local governments to impose restrictions on natural gas extraction within their borders.
Sooy said the proposal sets a bad precedent regarding the ability of local governments to protect themselves against environmental hazards. He said the issue is of particular concern in York County, where some municipalities are fighting essentially the same battle over agricultural operations.
No matter what industry you’re talking about, Sooy said, the policy reflects a disturbing collusion of big government with big business.
“This is absolutely wrong,” Sooy said. “This is against democracy.”
Although Waugh isn’t sponsoring the Senate bill that protesters are concerned about, Sooy said they targeted his office because Waugh is caucus chairman of the majority Republicans and thus part of the Senate leadership that’s pushing it. Also, Waugh has been a supporter of similar legislation that sought to limit local control of agriculture.
Waugh, R-Shrewsbury Township, was not at his York office during the protest. His staffers said he was in Harrisburg. But his chief of staff, Nadine Hubner, met with several protesters to discuss their concerns. She said she will pass them along to the senator. Waugh himself was unavailable for comment.
For about an hour, the picketers hoisted protest signs for pedestrians and passing vehicles, and they discussed their concerns with the occasional passerby.
Among the protesters was York resident Mark Gillespie. Unlike many other protesters, Gillespie said he considers himself to be a political conservative. But he’s concerned both about the quality of drinking water and the ability of local governments to protect that water quality.
“This is just common sense,” he said.