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Sunday, October 27, 2013

"How dare they say that we were not worthy of a healthy environment."

"What we see in Pennsylvania is that rural communities have been fractured by shale gas development. They're isolated and poor and don't have a lot of voices to stand up to companies," she said, adding that opposition is also hampered by a lack of historical data about health impacts, no systematic collection of new data and no right to know the chemicals being used in the fracking process.

"Ms. Gibbs, a warrior-princess in one of the nation's first epic environmental health wars and now executive director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, said in-your-face, grass-roots activism that applied strong political pressure was the only thing that worked to get state and federal officials to move 800 families and a school out of the Love Canal area and clean up the 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals improperly dumped there. She said a study of Love Canal residents found 56 percent of children born to residents there had birth defects, but that was dismissed by the state as "useless housewife data collected by people with a vested interest." A subsequent state study confirmed the 56 percent number but didn't blame Love Canal. Instead, she said, it blamed "a random clustering of genetically defective people."

"The company that dumped the chemicals, the city of Niagara, N.Y., and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency all knew we were being exposed to toxic chemicals and knew we were getting sick," said Ms. Gibbs, then a 26-year-old mother who couldn't understand why her two young children were always sick. "But the decision had been made that we could be sacrificed, sacrificed for money or power or jobs, which is essentially money."