Oklahoma City – Oklahomans and Texans gathered and marched today in Oklahoma City outside Cox Convention Center to protest the International Energy Conference being hosted by Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business. The International Energy Conference featured Texas Governor Rick Perry, Devon Energy CEO John Richels, and Matthew McManus with the U.S. Department of State and other international leaders in the oil and gas industry.
The protest, dubbed the Rational Synergy Convergence, highlighted the nefarious actions of the oil and gas industry, economic inequality in the age of a “fracking boom”, and the effects of global capitalism on human lives. Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance called for concerned residents to speak out for an economically just and ecologically sustainable future. As industry leaders spoke with their heads in the sand at the International Energy Conference, local community leaders such as Angela Spotts of Stop Fracking Payne County shared stories of living next to one of Devon Energy’s frack wells in Stillwater. Native leaders such as David Hill of Oklahoma American Indian Movement and Rev. Chebon Kernell, Executive Secretary of Indigenous Ministries of the United Methodist Church spoke out against industrial abuse of land.
“I am here today to remind Oklahoma City University, a United Methodist University, of the United Methodist Social Principles on the environment,” said Pat Hoerth, Deaconess in the United Methodist Church, pointing out the contradictions between Oklahoma City University’s religious tradition and business partnerships.
Grand Riverkeeper Earl Hatley told about leading a statewide effort of grassroots citizens calling for a one-year moratorium on class II underground injection control (UIC) disposal wells for drilling and Fracking waste. “An increasingly warming planet must dramatically decrease its output of carbon and methane gas emissions now to insure a safe future. Earthquakes are starting to ravage our state, health issues are mounting due to air quality and water reserves are being squeezed. The people in this conference must grasp and take responsibility for the environmental, social and human rights violations inherent in the unconventional oil and gas technologies and, indeed, the further exploration and extraction of new deposits of fossil fuels. It is time for a rigorous expansion of the renewable energy and conservation sector before it’s too late for our future generations ofan ever increasingly warming planet” said Earl Hatley, Grand Riverkeeper.
Colin Ferguson, student at Oklahoma City University, ended the rally by condemning the University’s partnership with Devon Energy while posing to be a “sustainable” institution. “My university funnels business students into the Devon ranks at an incredible rate, as engineers, scientists and public relations workers. Is this where the best young minds in our state ought to end up? Should they not instead be directed towards finding solutions to the shaky mess caused by oil and gas extraction, and towards alternative efforts at energy production? Let’s demonstrate, together, our disappointment in this state of affairs. Let’s express to these industry men and women and to President Robert Henry in particular, that we won’t let Oklahoma’s young talent be usurped into this cycle of environmental destruction, of economic inequality, of manipulation and deceit in the name of money and power!”
Next, protesters left the permitted space and began marching and singing. Angela Spotts of Stop Fracking Payne County led the march towards Continental Resources to confront Harold Hamm, CEO who is credited with perfecting technology used in horizontal drilling. As protesters neared Continental Resources, they were met by security who threatened to call the police. Angela Spotts took the bullhorn and led chants demanding to speak with Harold Hamm. A brief standoff ensued before protesters marched towards Devon Energy Tower. When protesters arrived, Earl Hatley took the mic to explain his legal fight with Devon to keep them from fracking his land in rural Stillwater, Oklahoma. Protesters blocked the sidewalk with banners, passed out WANTED, JOHN RICHELS flyers to employees. A sizeable crowd of Devon employees gathered outside to listen before protesters marched back to the Convention Center and dispersed.