April 1, 2014
A judge in Pennsylvanian has loosened restrictions on anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins. The original restrictions, requested by Cabot Oil and Gas, prevented Scroggins from visiting any land leased or owned by Cabot. The ruling last week says Scroggins has to stay away from Cabot drilling sites, producing wells and a dozen properties owned by the company.
In one of the hundreds of video Vera Scroggins has uploaded to YouTube, she films a bulldozer burp black smoke in the air as it moves dirt onto a 30-foot high pile. The bulldozer makes trip after trip. It dumps ever more dirt on the massive stack of earth.
“This is a fresh water impoundment being build on route 267. That’s a lot of soil being moved around and there are a lot of houses right here,” Scroggins says in one such video.
Scroggins is well-known for her online videos and guided bus tours of fracking sites in Susquehanna County. She’s given tours to international leaders, other environmental activists and celebrities like Yoko Ono.
But Cabot Oil and Gas was getting frustrated with Scroggins’ constant presence at their wells sites.
“They didn’t want me bringing people near the sites, on the sites. But most of the time I was off the site. I was on the road,” says Scroggins.
So, to try to keep her away from their operations, Cabot filed an injunction last October that barred Scroggins from any land they own and the land they lease for drilling.
“Because it was getting to be a lot. The last two years was getting more and more, it could be two or three times a week,” she says refering to her frequent visits to drill sites.
It got national press. There were reports about how Scroggins couldn’t go to her favorite grocery store or her local hospital.
Scroggins lawyers argued it was a violation of her first amendment rights. George Stark, a spokesman for Cabot, disagrees.
“We’re not trying to stop anyone’s free speech. We’re not trying to stop anyone’s free movement,” declares Stark.
He says it was never the point of the injunction to keep Scroggins from going to her grocery store or hospital.
“Our interest is in keeping Miss Scroggins off our active work sites,” adds Stark.
The ruling handed down by the judge last Friday narrows the injunction to only include active work sites. And also requires that Scroggins stays at least 100 feet away from the entrance to any drilling location.
Scroggins takes me to a drill site to show what the new requirements will look like. We pull to the side of the road. There are two large “No Trespassing” signs and a young woman is sitting in a car at the entrance with a clipboard.
“That’s probably security right there, that person in the car. They’re watching the entrance,” says Scroggins.
She says the security posts starting cropping up at the sites about two years ago. In the early days, she says she could simply walk up to the site manager and start asking him questions. Things are not so simple anymore.
“Do you think that security guard knows who you are?”
She snaps a few photos of the site. The injunction hasn’t lessened her passion to document everything fracking-related. She says now she’ll just have to buy a bigger zoom lens.
There is a trial date set for May 1st for the two sides to hammer out what the permanent injunction against Scroggins will look like.