“They say I’m not to be trusted,” said Vera Scroggins, a local fracking activist from Montrose, PA. Vera has recently been targeted by the industry for speaking out against shale gas extraction. She often leads groups through Dimock and Montrose on a ‘Toxic Tour,” explaining the history of drilling and fracking in the County. Since drilling began in Northeast PA, negative health and environmental effects have been increasing, and although it’s hard to find statistics for some of the resulting problems, Vera Scroggins is the best primary source.
Vera was speaking to a group of college students with Eco Practicum; an environmental education group that “take[s] a wide approach to understanding systems that guide societal decisions regarding food, animals, energy, and land.” Most of the members were underclassmen, preparing for their next semester in environmental-related majors, many of them unaware of the true horrors of fracking.
“The gas industry has advertisements to indicate how good they are, but they never mention “water buffaloes“, violations, and the water filtration systems they provide to families whose water they contaminate,” Vera said. “And then they attack those who oppose them. The gas companies then insist that they themselves are not a danger.”
“We were a rural community before the gas companies came,” Vera explained. “The land men who came in to obtain the leases said, ‘oh you’ll have one well in Dimock… don’t worry.’ Now there are over 950 and they want 100,000 [according to Fox News.] We’ve got compressor stations every two to four miles. And they say the economy will be better and we’ll have a whole bunch of gas, but 90% or more of the gas is leaving the county to go to other areas. This is not what we want in rural Pennsylvania.”
Vera is banned from being within a hundred feet of a Cabot well site, but it’s not so bad because being closer to the sites means being closer to the exposure problems. Many have complained of dizziness, headaches, migraines, coughing, bloody noses, and other symptoms as a result of fracking and drilling, which happens 24/7. The workers have it the worst—some work 12-hour shifts. Some 60 hours a week. Not to mention, the lack of efficient inspections and regulation: accidents happen, some people are doing jobs they aren’t trained for, and there are only 3 drilling inspectors for the 6 counties in the Northeast region of Pennsylvania. “There should be 3 inspectors per county,” Vera said.
Of the over 950 wells in Susquehanna County, the Department of Environmental Protection has noted 907 violations.
“We have to get lawyers willing to fight,” Vera said. “Industry pervades our society. We’ve got extensive cancer varieties aside from respiratory illnesses. You have to go through thousands of feet of earth to get this stuff—it’s dark energy.”
“We’ve got this stuff on our farms, in our meat, our produce,” she said. “This state’s food would be banned if we revealed the contaminants they’re using [many of which are cancer-causing]. Our fracking-related waste in Pennsylvania is banned from several counties in New York. No one wants it,” she said.
When asked about her hope for the future, Vera was surprisingly optimistic. “I grew up Christian,” she said. “I believe anything is possible. David can beat Goliath.”
Photos by the Author