If you can, take advantage of the opportunity this weekend to see one of the great heroes of the fight for citizen rights against unregulated oil and gas drilling. She’s Helen Slottje, an upstate New York attorney who is the deserving winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, which annually honors grassroots environmental heroes across the globe.
She’ll be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of Northern Plains Resource Council this Saturday, November 15 at the Crowne Plaza Billings from 11:30 – 12:30. You can attend just this session, the entire two-day meeting, or join Northern Plains by clicking here.
Helen has spent the last four years crafting a successful legal strategy utilizing zoning laws to prevent oil and gas fracking from entering communities across New York, and she hopes her speech can help do the same for Montana.
“The communities are on the front lines of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing,” she said. “Communities have always had the right to make local decisions that affect the places where this might happen. They’re the people who bear the costs and the burdens of this, so they should have the right to make decisions that impact that.”
This video of her, made for the Goldman Prize announcement, includes this inspirational summary of the impact of her work:
“She changed the paradigm of human interaction with the oil and gas industry. As citizens we have the right to say no. “
We’ve written extensively about her on this blog. She was the subject of a personal story, and we presented a remarkable video of the David-and-Goliath tale of how the town of Dryden, New York took control of its own destiny and banned fracking. Over 170 towns in New York have taken advantage of Helen’s work by issuing bans.
Last July, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the right of cities in that state to ban fracking, the ultimate validation of Helen’s work.
Citizen groups in Carbon and Stillwater Counties are working on signature gathering to establish citizen initiated zones along the Beartooth Front. These zones would not ban fracking, but would establish the rules under which oil drilling would take place, making sure that the rights of property owners and communities are balanced with those of oil and gas companies.
Update 11/13/2014: Audio of Helen Slottje interview with Deb Courson Smith of Public News Service