Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ruling allows Scroggins back on Cabot-leased land Fracking activist will fight buffer zone in May trial

Update, April 30 2104: Scroggins V. Cabot trial, set for May 1 in Montrose, Pa., postpomed until July 2.

A ruling Friday by a Pennsylvania judge to allow activist Vera Scroggins back on land leased by Cabot Oil & Gas is a “big win” according to her legal team, but the fight will continue in a trial scheduled for May 1.

An order, drafted by Cabot attorneys and handed down by Judge Kenneth Seamans in October, barred Scroggins from setting foot on land owned or leased by Cabot, “including but not limited to” well sites, well pads, and access roads. That language kept Scroggins from approximately 200,000 acres -- nearly 40 percent -- of Susquehanna County where Scroggins lives, including property of friends, neighbors, stores, parks, schools and health care providers.

After a hearing Monday, Judge Seamans modified the injunction to restrict Scroggins only from work areas designated by no-trespassing signs and a 100-foot buffer zone. The new order, issued on Friday, allows Vera to enter other land leased by Cabot, including markets, public spaces, physicians offices, and hospitals. It also allows her to use public roads that go by work sites, but the ruling stipulates that she cannot stop or linger at the entrances to access roads.

In an interview Friday with Associated Press reporter Michael Rubinkam, Scroggins’ attorney Scott Michelman characterized the revised order as “a big win,” but he added that the 100-foot buffer could pose unjustified restrictions. Scroggins said the revised order was “a step in the right direction. ” She told me today that she and her legal team will fight the buffer zone at a trial scheduled for May 1.

Scroggins’ vantage point was mostly from public roads by drilling sites, although Cabot claims that she also trespassed onto private land under lease by the Texas drilling company, posing a safety risk to herself and others. In a statement Friday, Cabot officials said they were "satisfied” with the ruling to maintain an injunction against Scroggins that “protects Cabot and its employees, contractors and others” and “keeps landowners from being exposed to liability that could arise from Scroggins' actions."

One of the main questions to be resolved: Is a buffer zone, which does not apply to other citizens, necessary to protect the health and safety of Scroggins and others, as Cabot claims, or is it being used by Cabot to discourage anti-fracking activists from filming or viewing Cabot operations from legitimate vantage points, as Scroggins claims.

Scroggins has taped and posted hundreds of video files on You Tube showing drilling operations in Susquehanna County since 2009, including spills, clean-ups, and discharges. The videos cast operations in a way that runs counter to the industry’s portrayal as clean and safe. Scroggins has also lead tours for political action groups, academics, journalists, and other interested parties visiting the area to learn more about drilling and the controversial practice of high volume hydraulic fracturing to stimulate the gas wells.


  1. Read the actual Opinion and Order here:


    I'm certainly for free speech and I don't know Vera or really the particulars of her activism, but as a separate question what happens when "activists" are the only voices in the news on an issue? On Long Island that is currently resulting in antifracking activists quite successfully claiming that an import project is secretly an export project. In Brooklyn and Queens this resulted in hearings with outsiders speaking about almost everything but the actual project (Rockaway lateral/Northeast Connector) being discussed. It also resulted in enormous amounts of misinformation on the Rockaway project mostly by antifracking activists aligned with other groups like United for Action or Sane Energy project etc as well which was deliberate not accidental.

    1. Good question and thanks for raising it. Some reports are one sided and the lines between news and commentary are blurred. This works both ways. Taken collectively, I don’t think activist are the only voices in the news (which is very broad category) on any of these issues – certainly not on the merits and risks of shale gas development. I am now writing a long-form piece on the history of the liberal mainstream media – the days of Joseph Pulitzer when print journalism was a vehicle for reform against forces of exploitation. Some of media’s ties and interest in activism are traditionally tied to that “watchdog function”, although things are changing in 21st Century. In short, PR voices of big industry have much influence on the discussion.

    2. My comment below should have gone here. Sorry. It belongs under Sweetgum's thread.

  3. Here's some interesting findings:

    FERC EIS published 2/28/14 - permitting 647,000 dekatherms per day, 26 inch onshore and offshore pipe

    Copied from the FERC website:
    "The Projects would provide firm delivery lateral service of 647 thousand dekatherms per day of natural gas to National Grid’s local distribution system in the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York. The proposed facilities would be located in Brooklyn and Queens Counties, New York; York County, Pennsylvania; and Mercer and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, and include:

    construction and operation of 3.2 miles of new 26-inch-diameter pipeline onshore and offshore;

    construction and operation of one new metering and regulating station;

    modification of three existing compressor stations;

    installation of an offshore cathodic protection system; and

    various onshore and offshore ancillary facilities including taps, valves, manifolds, launchers, and receivers."

    FERC issues Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Rockaway Delivery Lateral and Northeast Connector Projects (Docket Nos. CP13-36-000 and CP13-132-000)

    New York City Consumption 2010 - NYC open data

    New York City zip codes (about 1015 in total) consumed about 276 million dekatherms in 2010. On average this is about 757,000 dekatherms per day.

    From NYC open data:

    I didn't feel like filtering for Brooklyn and Queens zip codes only. Also it appears that New York State uses over twice as much gas in January compared to August (city/summer thing). See below table from EIA.

    The question to ask is, what's supplying the other city boroughs? And what will happen to the excess supply during summer months?


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