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Thousands Protest Outside Shale Drilling Conference In Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Center city Philadelphia is the gathering place this week for bigwigs in the Marcellus Shale industry, and it's a conference that's not without controversy.


An estimated 2,000 people showed up this morning to protest the industry and its controversial drilling process known as "fracking."


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(Credit: John Ostapkovich)


This major conference on shale gas opened with former Pennsylvania governor and industry consultant Tom Ridge calling for an "energy revolution" that will help release the United States from the "vicegrip of our dependence on foreign oil."

Ridge says the US needs to rely on natural gas and other homegrown sources of energy, calling it vital to national security.

He says many of the concerns about the environmental and public health impacts of drilling are "phony hysteria."

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(Credit: John Ostapkovich)


John Pinkerton, CEO of drilling company Range Resources Corp., followed Ridge this morning at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  He says the industry needs to develop a "more robust market" for natural gas.

Meanwhile, drilling opponents were holding a march and rally outside to counter the industry event.

And even before the thousands of people protested outside the shale-gas drilling convention, several told their drilling related horror stories to reporters at a nearby church.

KYW's John Ostapkovich heard some examples.

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(Susan Breese. Credit: John Ostapkovich)

"My backyard is a wildlife habitat," noted Susan Breese of Susquehanna County (right), who calls herself a natural-born environmentalist.  But she says that's been a lot tougher since a shale-gas well was drilled near her home in 2008.

The main issue for her, and one echoed by other foes, is contaminated water.  Hers has more than double the allowable limit of barium and nearly four times the limit for strontium.

"I can say that everyone who had their water tested does not drink their water anymore," Breese said today.  "It's major problems for our whole neighborhood."

Using bottles or tanks of clean water only goes so far, she adds, especially when it comes to livestock -- which have no understanding of pollution concerns -- and personal hygiene.

" 'What's going to happen to me for taking showers in barium every day, which I still do?' " Breese recalls asking a researcher.  "It's kind of unprecedented."

Opponents say their water problems today could be ours tomorrow, if drilling spreads.

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