Protests that rail against fracking are not uncommon within the City of Ithaca and on South Hill, but the activism took a different spin Thursday afternoon outside the Campus Center as IC Frack Offhosted a mock wedding to symbolize what members call a corrupt, close relationship between gas companies and the government.
Sophomore Ben Knowles, Frack Off’s social media coordinator, served as the ceremony’s officiator while junior Benjamin Lloyd played the role of the groom, or big oil and gas, and Frack Off co-president sophomore Kaela Bamberger dressed as the bride, representing the government.
Knowles attempted to marry the couple when Frack Off’s recruitment and outreach officer freshman Meredith Knowles objected to the union, claiming it was corrupt.
“We need to keep big oil and gas out of the government’s bed,” Knowles said as acting ushers removed her from the scene. Knowles’s removal was intended to represent a suppressed voice of the citizenry.
Following the protester’s removal, Knowles continued, and the couple vowed “through riches and closed door dealings, in times of surplus and times of collapse” until “death or environmental destruction” do them part.
The groom then toasted with water polluted due to hydraulic fracturing to his new wife, who then collapsed and died. Lloyd reached down and snatched the sign from around Bamberger’s neck that read “government” and put it around his, saying, “I will be both government and big oil and gas.”
Fracking is a controversial procedure that oil and gas companies use to drill for methane gas. To siphon the natural gas from underground rock formations, drill workers inject sand, water and chemicals into the rock formation, opening the pre-existing rock fractures. Ithaca rests on the Marcellus Shale, which is a subterranean rock formation that contains largely untapped sources of natural gas that fracking would access.
Fracking opponents point to the potentially detrimental environmental impacts of natural gas drilling. On the other side, supporters champion the economic benefits that could come to drilling land regions, whether through jobs, royalty checks to landowners or indirect increases in local business in an area with more employees with disposable income.
The City of Ithaca’s Common Council banned hydraulic fracturing in November, and fracking bans were upheld via court rulings in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield in February and March, respectively.
The skit countered previous Frack Off events, which have generally been devoted to raising awareness of the environmental degradation related to fracking. Ben Knowles said the skit provides an alternate perspective on the issue.
“We just want to let people know about the other side of this two-headed monster,” he said. “You have the business politics side of it and what it does to the people and the land. There’s horrific problems with them both, and it’s really difficult to wrap it all into one.”
Freshman Marissa Villegas, one of about 20 guests at the wedding, said she found the skit to be entertaining but also informative.
“It was satirical and funny while telling the true facts about how we should change and keep fracking banned,” Villegas said.
Meredith Knowles said she was happy with the attendance, especially because the wedding intended to target passersby who may remain unaware of the political side of the issue.
“It went really well because it’s a very strong metaphor to see the signs and understand how much the government is involved with big oil and gas corporations,” Knowles said.