Fracking Up Passover – The First Plague

Courtesy: Jim Lando, Dor Hadash Social Action Committee seder supplement 2011/5771

We offer this reading and letter writing opportunity for you and your guests this Pesach. Hag Sameach!

The First Plague

And the fish that were in the Nile died and the Nile stunk, and the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile, and the blood was in all the land of Egypt. – Shemot (Exodus) 7:21

The Nile was a miraculous source of life for the Egyptians. Worshipped as a God, it has no tributaries for its final 900 miles. It was the water of the Nile that drew Jacob’s family down to Egypt to escape drought and subsequently led to our people’s enslavement.

Before the first plague, Pharaoh was warned to free the Israelites or risk having the Nile turned to blood. The destruction of this life giving source should have been enough to break the will of Pharaoh and compel him to let our people go. But it wasn’t. Nine more plagues followed. The interest of oppressors in maintaining their grasp on power is strong and not easily broken.

Now we are faced with a similar crisis. Pittsburgh is home to Three Rivers. Unfortunately, our modern day Pharaohs are controlled by corporate interests whose actions risk are bringing on a modern day plague that threatens our water.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of extracting natural gas from shale formations by drilling deep into the earth and injecting a slurry of water, sand and a proprietary blend of chemicals. This slurry fractures the shale and releases natural gas trapped within it. Much of the water injected is pulled back up to the earth. Some stays below threatening groundwater. The waste water which is removed is salty and contains many minerals from the shale formations including some which are toxic and radioactive.

Pennsylvania is the only state among the top 15 gas producing states not to tax the extraction of gas from fracking and the only one to allow wastewater to be disposed of in state waterways. In 2007, 99 permits were issued for fracking operations in Pennsylvania, by 2010 that number had skyrocketed to 3,445 taxing overburdened inspectors who are having their findings scrutinized by political appointees in Harrisburg.

The Israelites had to cry out, they had to demand freedom, before they could be liberated. The message of Pesach is not only a celebration of liberation, but a reminder that that we are given freedom for a purpose. In the seder we hear, "Let my people go that they may serve me". One of the lessons of our people’s Exodus to freedom is that we are called upon to speak truth to power. Now is the time for you to let your leaders know that they must act to avert the coming plague and save our environmental and personal health through the enactment and enforcement of appropriate environmental regulations and the careful monitoring and study of environmental and human health effects.

If you are moved to action, please sign and send the accompanying letter to Governor Corbett (attached)

You are also encouraged to donate your time and money to Clean Water Action – PA (

Finally, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Pipeline for daily updates:

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