A list of farmers harmed by fracking and gas infrastructure, who have lost farms, farm animals, farm water, and/or property value.
PDF available at List of the Harmed PA Farmers and Farms
Compiled by Jenny Lisak – January, 2015
Roslyn and David Bohlander’s 190 acre farm in Bradford County has been in their family for seven generations. After wells were drilled on their farm, they knew something was wrong when their cows refused to drink the water. They discovered that their water was contaminated. In David Bohlander’s words – “We have two wells on the farm. We had a detailed baseline water testing done on both before any of the gas activity happened in our area. The well for the barn and original farmhouse was so contaminated with methane they thought it would explode so the well pump was disconnected for six months and water was trucked in by the gas companies for the animals, and spring water provided for the humans! The neighbors are the enforcers, but it is a David vs. Goliath situation with the gas companies. After four years now, I have not seen one well pad restored back to the original state.
The public does not have any idea how bad the permanent environmental contamination is going to be. There has been major barium and radiation poisoning with some already. One not far from us is a 13 year old girl with barium poisoning. One of our immediate neighbors’ daughters is having clumps of hair fall out and his dog got sick and his parakeet died from drinking his well water. He attributes one of the frack water recycling sites.”
Jacqueline Place is from Bradford County. Her cows refused to drink the water. Ms. Place noticed her water had become “reddish brown” and “oily.” She told Chesapeake and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, both came to test her water and both found dissolved methane levels 1,300 to 2,000 times higher than the baseline tests. The DEP determined the well water should not be used. Chesapeake brought in at least one water buffalo as a temporary water supply and installed methane monitoring equipment. Chesapeake, the DEP and Ms. Place’s consultant continued to test the well over the next several months, finding “levels of methane hundreds of times higher than the pre-drilling ‘baseline’ results from 2008, as well as increased iron and turbidity.”
Jacqueline Place lived for 10 months deprived totally of the use of her well, and even after its ‘restoration,’ has been burdened with a water supply with chronic contamination, requiring constant vigilance and ongoing monitoring,”
Barbara and Charlie Gerlach Bradford County, PA say that “during the past decade, the constant battles with the forces of nature have never discouraged us. We have faced illness in our livestock herds, hail that destroyed crops, and heavy rains that eroded pastures. We came to realize that each year would bring new challenges, and we faced each of them with determination.
But today is different. Every day we are now faced with the ever-growing destruction caused by gas drilling. We have witnessed nearby fields of wild blueberries and acres of sugar maple trees being bulldozed, and we know that this is just the beginning of the irreplaceable agricultural resources that all of us in Pennsylvania are losing.
Our property value has begun to plummet, so our options for the future are limited. We find ourselves reluctant to make improvements that require more labor and financial investment. In the past, our conversation was filled with exciting new ideas about our farm’s future. Now, uncertainty and hesitation dampen all our joy. We know that our personal loss is minute in comparison to the wonderful resources of sustainable living that our state is now sacrificing at warp speed. Where will it end, and what legacy will we leave for future generations?”
Bradford County dairy farmer Carol French says,“If I hear one more New York farmer or any Farmer tell me that they want Natural Gas drilling in their state or they signed a gas lease to “SAVE their FAMILY FARM” I will probably lose it! Today I thought it’s going to be a good day. We didn’t lose power from the snowstorm. We made our way to the barn to only find that another cow aborts her calf. She was eight months into her pregnancy. Before I was done milking my cows, cow number three starts to abort her calf. She too is eight months into her pregnancy. In nine days we have had three cows lose their calves. For people not familiar with farming I will explain the dilemma. A cow should be ‘dry’ for 2 months before giving birth. A cow that aborts during this time of her pregnancy doesn’t ‘come into’ her milk real well. This Farmer counts on the replacement calves to continue farming the same number of cows. I have heard from other farmers with ‘changed’ water having similar problems. If this is true, the money from the lease, royalties, and signing other agreements will NOT offset the cost of 1. Losing your health. 2. Losing your family business, 3. Losing the value of your property. With this stripped from you, what will you have? A farmer claiming that this natural gas extraction is going to save the farm is sadly mistaken. Should that farmer count on this money and lose everything that I mentioned … He will lose his farm to the gas industry without a dime in his pocket! … Just a farmer sounding off, before I lose it!! Hoping tomorrow will be a better day!”
Angel and Wayne Smith from Bedford County lost a horse and three cows, and 12 calves were either miscarried or stillborn. They experienced unprecedented losses in their decades of farming, including 12 chickens and 4 cats.
They had to watch their animals die in agony because of the dangerous chemicals that have been put in their water by the companies that fracked on their land. They were concerned about their own health and the health of their animals. Fracking threatened their livelihood by impacting their health and their business. The Smiths later discovered that there was methane and arsenic in their drinking water, and so they bought an $11,000 water unit so that they could have safe drinking water for themselves and their animals. Fracking polluted their aquifer and forced them to pay thousands. But that is not all. The compressor station located across from their property creates a ton of noise and makes their once serene farm a very unpleasant place to live. In 2009, the compressor station exploded and sprayed oil all over their property including their cars and blueberries. The blueberries were contaminated and the Smiths could not sell them.
The Smiths had planned to leave the farm to their grandchildren but fracking has destroyed that dream. The value of the property has gone down immensely since the drilling began. When the Smiths bought their farm they had a plan for how their life would go. But the monetary burdens they have faced due to the drilling company’s haphazard and frivolous destruction of the nearby land has ruined their plans.
Bedford County farmer Michele Beegle describes what her farm used to be like. “We always had a garden and a small barn for beef cows, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. It was cheaper than the store and you knew what you were eating. Once the compressor station went in, it all went to crap. Our cows just dwindled away. The first one died within a few months. Then there was a second one. We’d never lost a cow before except during birth.
Not long after a blow-off in August 2009, I was working out back in the garden when I blacked out. It happened a second time one morning while my youngest daughter was getting ready for school. I was in the bathroom when I fell, I landed in front of the door. It took my daughter five minutes to force the door open so she could help me. With time, the fainting spells became more frequent and lasted longer. I’ve broken every rib except one from all the falls. For safety reasons, I lost my license for a while and I’m not allowed to shower. I’ve been to see specialists in Altoona, Johnston, and Pittsburgh and none of them can tell me for sure what is causing the blackouts.
Once, it happened while I was in the doctor’s office when my daughter was about to start nursing school and she needed a physical. The doctor told me that it was cataplexy as a result of toxic exposure. Now I’m on medication that makes it better and I will be for the rest of my life although it increases my risk for Parkinson’s disease.”
Pam Judy lives is in a part of the state that could be a poster child for how dense natural gas development can be in Pennsylvania. Pam and her husband built their house in 2006 on property that once belonged to her great grandparents and remained part of the family farm—but over the years the gas industry has changed the area dramatically. Today, there is a large compressor station 900 feet from the Judy farm and more than 35 drilled and producing wells within one mile. Noise, odors, and traffic have diminished many of the benefits of country life, but Pam, her husband, and their two children have been most concerned about their health. They have often felt tired and had headaches, runny noses, sore throats, and muscle aches. Pam has had bouts of dizziness and vomiting, and both children had frequent nosebleeds before they moved away.”
Carol and Don Johnson of Tioga County say that drilling left behind large rocks in their fields and that wiring from seismic testing was left tangled in their hay bales, making it impossible to feed to their animals. Carol and her husband Don, hired a lawyer. They wanted damages for a loss of pasture, loss of crops, improperly built fences, and gates that are way too small. This is the kind of stuff you run into when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t understand farming,” says Carol Johnson.
Flowback fluid leaked from an impoundment pit onto a pasture where the Johnsons grazed their cattle. In response, the PA Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 head, including 16 cows, four heifers and eight calves. Adult animals were held from the food chain for 6 months and calves exposed in utero were held from the food chain for 8 months. But the exposed calves were quarantined for two years – a real loss of income for the Johnsons. Then they suffered additional losses: eight of 11 calves born to previously quarantined cows died at birth.
George and Lisa Zimmerman of Washington County say that baseline tests on their water a year before drilling began were ‘perfect’. Then water tests found arsenic at 2,600 times acceptable levels, benzene 44 times above limits and naphthalene five times the federal standard.
Soil samples detected mercury and selenium above official limits, as well as ethylbenzene, a chemical used in drilling, and trichloroethene, a naturally occurring but toxic chemical that can be brought to the surface by gas drilling.
Zimmermann says his land has become ‘virtually valueless’ because it is permanently contaminated with toxic chemicals as a result of the 10 wells that Atlas has drilled. With a wife, an eight-year-old son and eight-month-old twins, Zimmermann worries about air and water quality.
He said he has invested about $11 million in the estate, which includes a winery and an heirloom-tomato business, but he now just wants to walk away because he believes it has been ruined by gas drilling. He rates his chances of selling the property as ‘slim to none’ in light of the proven water contamination.” I don’t want to live here anymore,” Zimmermann said. “I’m afraid of the chemicals.”
George Watson from Greene County filed civil complaints against a company that was convicted in 2012 of illegally dumping wastewater into Greene County streams and against four others for whom the company allegedly hauled wastewater. During a hearing the wastewater hauler was ordered to pay $12,000, the statutory limit for a civil action before a district judge. Watson claimed 21 of his cattle died on his farm. He alleged at about the same time he saw Shipman’s trucks at Hargus Creek upstream from his farm and on one occasion saw a truck dump water into the stream.
Ron Gulla from Washington County, saw his three-acre pond turn black. One day, he noticed bubbling in gravel surrounding his well bore and had that water tested. The test revealed the presence of benzene, toluene, xylene, ethyl-benzene, oxylene and other chemicals, all volatile organic compounds, all deadly carcinogens.
Gulla’s property had become a waste dump for an endless stream of mud, mill slag, silt and toxic backflow from the fracking wells. Land eroded and sediment formed on the bottom of Gula’s 2.5 acre pond. By July all the vegetation around the pond was dead. When Gulla asked Range Resources if they had tested the pond water, their response was that since they never conducted a pre-drilling test they had no baseline for comparison. Appeals to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection produced no results. DEP workers came, saw, shook their heads and left – in one case to work for Range Resources. He was forced to give up his contaminated land.
On a rainy day gas and water began spewing out of the ground on Emile Alexander‘s farm in Washington County. Investigators determined that the fracking of a new well caused methane to leak through an abandoned well and into the ground and the aquifer. Some water wells near Mr. Alexander’s farm have been fitted with vents to allow stray gas to escape. Methane gas isn’t toxic to ingest, but it can explode. Although Mr. Alexander receives royalty payments from two wells on his land, he wishes he had never signed the lease. “I didn’t sign it to kill me,” he said.
“Gas started welling up in the middle of his fields; he could only see it when it rained and it started bubbling up. ”There was so much gas around that they put monitors up in his house and told him that he might have to move out until the problem was resolved. “I really don’t want to move,” he said. Emile Alexander passed away last April.
Joyce Mitchell, owner of a 133-acre horse farm near Hickory, Washington County, said she has “mixed feelings” about having leased her land. She complains about a constant smell of gas and noxious fumes, and no longer drinks the water from her well because she is concerned about its safety.
Mitchell said Range took over more of her land than she expected, and though she was advised by her lawyer that the company was within its leasing rights to do so, she found the company’s attitude overbearing. “They are arrogant,” she said.
Now Mitchell has asked an independent testing company to make sure her water is safe. “I do feel the compulsion to make sure this operation does not do horrible things to us.
Emma and Gary Puskarich of Washington County lost 90 head of angus cattle. Gary Puskarich says “And one thing about these gas company people – they lie. I don’t even think they know how to tell the truth…That’s like the DEP, I’m down there fighting them over all this contamination. All my stuff out of the basement is ruined [the basement was flooded with sewage, which the gas company later admitted that they caused. I told them I was going to burn it, and they [the DEP] told me they would have to fine me because, you know, contamination you’re not allowed to burn. But, I said, “They can drain all their stuff down across the road and ruin your ground, people’s water but that’s okay – we’re not going to fine them!” Oh, we got into it a lot of times with the DEP…Nobody wanted to help. And to this day no one is helping…The DEP is not for giving, they are for the gas companies…I say they get paid off from the gas company, because what happened here – somebody should have done something. Somebody is getting paid off.”
Beth Voyles of Washington County experienced “numerous health ailments, including but not limited to rashes, blisters, light-headedness, nose bleeds, lethargy Medical testing has revealed elevated levels of arsenic, benzene, and toluene in her body.” These chemicals are consistent with the chemicals used in fracking and that would be present in the impoundment.
Needless to say, after the impoundment was installed, her quality of life quickly plummeted. If rashes, blisters, light-headedness, nose bleeds, and lethargy weren’t enough, her farm animals and dogs also suddenly died, with other dogs having aborted pregnancies and delivering litters of stillborn offspring.
Voyle’s water well began to run dry. Again, the DEP issued no citation, nor informed Voyles of anything, even though “diminution of quantity of a water source violates the Oil & Gas Act.”
And so this story continues with a brine spill near her home, excessive truck traffic, overpowering raw sewage smells that entered into and surrounded her home from the impoundment, and so on. http://www.marcellus-shale.us/Beth-Voyles.htm
A pond on Joe and Sandra McDaniel’s 154 acre property in Bedford County was ruined. In rural Clearville, south-central Pennsylvania, Spectra Energy Corp drilled to establish an underground gas storage facility. Sandra McDaniel said federal authorities forced her, through eminent domain laws, to lease about five acres of her 154 acres to Spectra to build a drilling pad on a wooded hilltop.
Pre and post drilling water tests show chemicals escaped and found their way into the spring fed fish pond which was protected by silt fencing and other erosion controls. There was no other path than subsurface entry for man-made surfactants!
McDaniel watched from the perimeter of the installation as three pipes spewed metallic gray water into plastic-lined pits, one of which was partially covered in a gray crust. As a sulfurous smell wafted from the rig, two tanker trucks marked “residual waste” drove from the site.
“My land is gone,” she said. “The government took it away, and they have destroyed it.”
Jodie Simons of Bradford County says that within six months of drilling, five of her horses died. According to Jodie, “The vet could not explain this rash of horse deaths in such a short time period.” In 2008, Jodie was pregnant, went into early labor, and tragically lost her baby. Also that year, a number of pheasants, ducks, chickens, and turkeys on her farm died, and a pig went from around 500 pounds to 100 pounds in a two week period, continually vomiting, and then died. Dozens of animals died.
David and Linda Headley built their Fayette County house just before the gas-drilling boom hit. They had a chance to buy the gas rights but chose not to. Now, they wish they had, because they’re sharing their 115-acre farm with the Marcellus Shale industry .About 150 yards from David Headley’s home, the cap on a natural gas tank popped up, and a gas cloud began pouring out. Headley recorded the incident on video from inside his house.Within minutes, the valley was filled with a fog from the fumes, and Headley’s 5-year-old son was outside riding around on his four-wheeler.
David Headley said “This has just been a nightmare. We bought this place as a paradise, a quiet place to raise our kids away from the hustle and bustle — someplace they could ride their horses enjoy living on a farm — and we didn’t know we were buying an industrial park.”
Land damages were immediate. Trucks, noise, dust, nomadic workers followed. Then came the polluting of their air and water, then deforestation and the destruction of fruit trees. They even managed to burn 10 acres of ground with a brush fire set with used motor oil from a bulldozer’s oil change!
Then came the transmission pipelines which meant more nomadic workers and thousands of gallons of drilling chemicals in their beautiful, trout-stocked stream! They had multiple leaking wells for over a year, ignored by the operators and a spring 200 ft. from their house which is now so rich with gas it can be set on fire. Sadly, doctor visits for them have become commonplace. Their son, had mysterious stomach issues that crippled him with pain. Their experience with local and state officials and the DEP has been mostly not caring, not responding, or denial.
Before Carolyn Knapp of Bradford County signed a gas lease, she questioned the industry representatives as to its effect on her organic dairy certification. That was 7 years ago. Now, nine wells have been drilled within 2 miles of her farm and the water tastes so bad at times that her cows won’t drink it. Neither will her husband. Last year, he suffered rashes all over his body; they disappeared once he quit drinking the water. Knapp’s cows had boils and skin rashes, too, and neighbors have noted skin lesions, fertility issues, and early miscarriages in their cows. Knapp can’t afford to test her water—lab fees can run as high as $3,200—and even if she could, she doesn’t know what to test for. Drillers don’t have to reveal what chemicals they use. Knapp believes her water problems stem from the nearby drilling and fracking operations.
Randy Morse, Bradford County farmer, says “It’s just one of those things.”He leased his property to Chesapeake. His beef cattle will no longer be able to drink from the brook that has been contaminated. Morse is broken up over the whole thing, hoping others don’t blame him because of the blowout on his farm.
Maggie Henry’s Lawrence County home and farm business were ruined by extreme extractive technology bent on ruining the landscape. Hilcorp caused earthquakes ruining foundations and cracking drywall and wasn’t held responsible for any of the damage. Henry and her husband, Dale, had worked their 88-acre farm for more than 35 years. Known for its eggs, the farm touts sustainable agricultural practices, selling naturally grown produce and naturally raised chicken, turkey, pork and beef.
Maggie made the decision to stop production when 3 animals died within a week of each other…nothing like that had ever happened before. Maggie said “Just because I don’t use pesticides or herbicides does not mean the food isn’t covered with neuro toxins, BTEX gas, endocrine disruptors, all kinds of known carcinogens, or any of the other noxious chemicals they are permitted to vent off into the environment. I have more integrity than that! 100 years this farm has been in his family and my grandchildren won’t grow up roaming on the land their parents or 4 generations of their ancestors did!
There are 17 Marcellus wells in the one-square-mile area surrounding Darrell Smitsky’s home. His family has occupied their rural home for more than four decades, and prior to Marcellus drilling, their well water was famous for its excellent quality and taste. Not long after drilling began, the Smitsky’s water started looking and tasting funny, so they quit drinking it. Strange things began to happen around anything associated with water on their property.
Darrell had eight healthy goats as Marcellus drilling got underway around him, five of the goats died, dropping off one by one. The fish in a small backyard pond began exhibiting strange symptoms as well, with their scales breaking down and becoming translucent, prior to death. Water plants turned brown and died. It finally became obvious that their well water and surface water were causing these impacts. Even though Darrell’s family began buying bottled water for drinking and cooking, they continue to shower in the well water. The Smitsky’s developed brown rashes on their legs.
Darrell’s well water tests indicated serious problems that also pointed directly to drilling contamination. Acrylonitrile appeared at an alarming level -130-times higher than the permitted level in a Pennsylvania stream.
Sherry Vargson is a dairy farmer who lives in a white house on nearly 200 acres, One morning, Vargson woke up to find 18 trucks idling in her driveway. The hillside behind her house was leveled for a drill pad, and the rig went up 500 feet from her back door. Once the fracking began, water trucks made hundreds of trips up and down her driveway, while air compressors roared all day and night. When the gas was flared off before production began, the flame was so bright in the night sky that she could see it glowing red on the horizon 12 miles away.
Vargson noticed not long after production that water in the trough out back stopped freezing on cold nights. Inside the house, the faucet began to sputter and spit. Her husband seemed to have a lot of headaches, and Vargson felt nauseous if she stayed in the shower for more than a few minutes. She had her water tested. It was loaded with methane. She discovered that she could light the water on fire,
Vargson stopped drinking the water after she discovered the methane – and tests showed that her water also contained elevated levels of toxic chemicals like radium, manganese and strontium.
For Vargson, and many homeowners just like her, fracking has proved to be a full-blown disaster. Her back pasture has become a full-time industrial zone, her water supply has been contaminated, and it will be virtually impossible to sell her home, since it lacks drinkable water.
About a year before Stacey Haney’s dog died, she began to notice that sometimes her water was black and that it seemed to be eating away at her faucets, washing machine, hot-water heater and dishwasher. When she took a shower, the smell was terrible — like rotten eggs and diarrhea. Haney started buying bottled water for drinking and cooking, but she couldn’t afford to do the same for her animals. Her son, Harley, was stricken with mysterious stomach pains and periods of extreme fatigue, which sent him to the emergency room and to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital a half-dozen times. “He couldn’t lift his head out of my lap,” Haney said. In the following year, after the animals died, Haney’s father began to haul water to her barn. They had Harley’s blood tested. Harley had elevated levels of arsenic.
Haney wasn’t feeling great, either, she had herself and her daughter Paige tested too. Their test results showed they had heavy metals like arsenic and industrial solvents like benzene and toluene in their blood. Soon Haney and her kids began to notice that even outdoors it smelled a lot like the shower — a combination of sweet metal, rotten eggs and raw sewage. Talking to neighbors, Haney learned that atop a hill, about 1,500 feet from her home and less than 800 feet from that of her neighbor, there was an open five acre chemical impoundment filled with chemically treated water.
The doctor’s advice was unequivocal: “Get Harley out of that house right away. I don’t want him anywhere near there, even driving by, for 30 days.” So Haney took Harley to a friend’s house and her daughter to her parents’ house . Each day, she spent about four hours in the car shuttling the kids from school, to and from friends’ homes and driving to the farm to feed the animals. Haney found a cousin willing to take her pigs, but she had nowhere to house the other animals, so they remained at the farm. She stayed home for less than an hour at a time, Every two days, she spent $50 on gas. Their farmhouse stood abandoned. “Our home has become a $300,000 cat mansion.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/magazine/fracking-amwell-township.html?_r=0
Truman and Bonnie Burnett of Bradford County had hoped to retire on their 125 acre farm. The Burnetts’ plans changed when a natural gas drilling operation on an adjacent property started less than 400 ft. from their house. Tens of thousands of gallons of drilling water that had been stored on the well pad spilled, leaking downhill and into the Burnetts’ trees and pond. That spill ruined a 50-ft.swath of forest and affected their water. The pond seemed lifeless, and the bass and perch that the Burnetts once fished with their grandchildren were gone. Even after the accident, the well is still running. The Burnetts can hear the hum of a gas compressor running 24 hours a day. “Did it ruin my life?” asks a tearful Bonnie. “I’d have to say yes.”
Truman Burnett passed away in October.
Leo Shanlay, lives a bit more than a mile from where the methane problems occurred in Tioga County. Evidence that something was amiss came from his cows. Shanlay’s nine calves wouldn’t drink any water from his drinking well. “Before, when I dumped water in, they drank it right away. They waited four or five hours before they would drink it,” Shanlay said, They’re were happy to drink the water his uncle trucked in from another site, though. Shanlay lives just outside the voluntary evacuation zone that was set up because of the methane. Shell had requested people who live within about a mile of the suspected well pad to evacuate their homes.
Ronald and Catherine Gates, of Erie County, sought damages for a devaluation of their property due to improper reclamation of the property following installation of a transmission pipeline and a compressor station serving 3 wells. Twenty acres of land had been “rendered almost unable to be used again” due to damaged drainage tiles and the presence of rocks near the transmission line. Poor drainage on an additional 25 to 30 acres was attributable to drilling activities. The company failed to replace the land into the condition it was which was to be used as cropland The Gates also claimed that their signatures were forged on leases and things were misrepresented to them.
The Fallon family dairy farm, located in in Susquehanna County, was a 300-cow operation. Shortly after drilling began in the area, a black sediment appeared in their well water. Tests showed the stuff to be manganese oxide, produced when dissolved manganese comes into contact with the air and forms an insoluble oxide. Apparently something happened at the same time the drilling began that caused a huge spike in the well water’s manganese levels. And this didn’t happen to just the Fallons. Many neighbors experienced similar problems at about the same time.
Shortly after the black sediment arrived, people and animals at the Fallons’ farm began to get sick. Bringing in outside drinking water solved the people part of the problem, but buying water for the animals was not affordable. Eventually the family was forced to sell their cows and shutter operations. Without income from the farm, the family is in danger of losing the land they’ve lived on for generations.
Potter County property owner, David Barndt, has lost over a dozen acres of his property, including 50-year old timber, to an energy corporation, which has taken over his land to drill and frack for natural gas without his consent.
Barndt only owns the surface property, but the minerals thousands of feet below belong to someone else, in what’s known as a split estate. In Pennsylvania, mineral rights trump surface rights.
Meanwhile, the surface owner continues to pay property taxes on land that, essentially, is no longer his. And the gas companies pay no tax on the minerals they take from underneath.
Barndt owns 150 acres of family land. The mineral rights were separated from the land, or surface estate, before his grandfather purchased it .“Their attitude the whole time has been – so sue us,” said Barndt. He and his lawyer were successful in fighting off an over 14-acre freshwater containment pond the company, Triana, had planned for his property earlier this year. Because the containment pond was not “essential” considering water can be pumped in via above-ground pipes that are later removed, Barndt was able to save the 30 acres Triana had taped off for constructing the pond on his property.
He is unable to sell or subdivide. “Who would want to buy this?” he said. “They’re going to be taking natural gas from here for 30 or more years, and I’ll still have to pay property taxes on land that is no longer mine.”
Terry Greenwood died in 2014 of a rare form of brain cancer. Harassed, threatened and poisoned by frackers for the last seven years of his life, Terry Greenwood was 66.
A fracking company representative sat in Greenwood’s kitchen and asked him if the company could frack for natural gas on his land. The state of the law in the land being what it is, citizens’ rights second to drillers’ – Greenwood didn’t have the right to refuse, but he told the company man he would fight for his property, for his rights. The company man told him he didn’t stand a chance, that he didn’t have enough money to fight the fracking giant protected by the Halliburton loophole – which exempts frackers from any meaningful regulation as well as the clean water act – and sanctioned and promoted by local, state and national government entities.
A month later, the drilling had contaminated the well from which Greenwood had drawn water for himself, his pets and his cattle for the previous 20 years. The fracker then threw him a bone – not out of the goodness of its little black heart but at the behest of county “regulators” drilling five water wells, none of which produced drinkable water.
After a fracking spill the next year, ten of 18 calves born on Greenwood’s property were stillborn; one was born blind, another with a cleft palate. The next spring, Greenwood’s lone bull, which would normally sire at least nine calves a year, became sterile.
A Marcellus Shale gas compressor station is threatening the continued operation of Don and Becky Kretschmann’s 80-acre organic farm, their way of life and the agricultural nature of their community.
“It’s an inappropriate use of agricultural land,” said Mr. Kretschmann of the gas compressor proposed for a hilltop upwind and just 2,000 feet from his farm. “Our zoning ordinance is supposed to ensure compatible uses, but this will allow this pristine rural road and community to be converted for industrial use. “It turns the zoning ordinance on its head,” he said, “and at the same time, for us, since our calling card is organic produce, introduces a question about that for our customers.”
The Kretschmanns started their organic farm 35 years ago and grew the business as a Community Supported Agriculture or “CSA” operation that each week delivers boxes of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, plus a newsletter and recipes, to centralized distribution points.
There are 35 to 40 CSA farms operating in western Pennsylvania, but the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm is one of the largest and oldest. Hundreds of Kretschmann’s customers had sent letters or emails to the supervisors opposing the compressor permit. “This compressor station has the potential of putting one of the few money-making farms possibly out of business,” Mr. Kretschmann said. “It’s not an easy thing to walk away from. We’ve built up the soil, have an apple orchard, an irrigation system, greenhouses and a solar array that supplies all of the power the farm uses. There’s a whole lot of us invested in it all.”
When Joe Bezjak, of Fayette County, discovered contractors with Laurel Mountain Midstream pumping sulfur water onto his property, he did what any right-thinking farmer would do: he asked them to stop. And that landed him in jail for 4 days. The irony: the gas pipeline employees were working on Bezjak’s farm against the court’s direction. They, however, got a “get out of jail free” card.
Bezjak allowed a right-of-way for a 16-inch gas pipeline through his 700-acre cattle farm. Bezjak raises Black Angus – about 200 head. At the time, the pipeline company agreed to work with him to ensure that the construction work did not interfere with his farming. A promise unfulfilled. Bezjak and his neighbor discovered cut and broken fences, stray cattle and dead calves. Without the fence, the cattle inter-breed. “That ruined the herd — more than 40 years worth of work down the drain,” Bezjak said. “They practically ruined my entire breeding stock.” They also discovered a Bentonite spill in a local creek, and reported the violation to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.
PA state environmental inspectors halted the project indefinitely, due to the contamination from the bentonite spill. So, when Bezjak saw pipeline workers – who weren’t supposed to be on his land by DEP order – dumping pollution illegally, he did what any right-thinking person would do. He told them to stop. He told them to leave. And he was the one tossed in jail.
Tom and Jenny Lisak of Jefferson County found the spring water on their organic farm compromised soon after the first Marcellus well was drilled in their township. Like they have for so many other complaints, the DEP concluded that the gas company was not responsible -although they would not offer any clues to what or whom caused the water to suddenly go bad. The drilling activity in their rural part of PA was destroying everything they held dear. It was robbing them of their sense of security, the safety of their food and the purity of their water and country air, not to mention the beauty and peacefulness of their country side. Traffic and road conditions were no longer safe for farm vehicles and farmers riding their bikes. The air was fouled from flaring and venting and “unintended releases” and they were witnessing a lot of illegal dumping. They lost beloved pets from the illegal spreading of produced water on the dirt road that ran alongside their farm. They live everyday with the very real threat that they will be living in close proximity and downwind of an explosive, toxic, carcinogenic VOC wafting heavy industrial extraction site with nothing they can say or do about it, that will cause harm to their health and a devaluation of their property and that will destroy all they have worked and dreamed for.
Betty Clark of Bedford County says “My son’s farm lost some goats and some calves; my son is disgusted. It ruined the farm; it smells like rotten eggs. Drillers hit the vein of the spring, so after they started drilling we got more water but it wasn’t good water, it was rotten.” “It has arsenic in it, but they told us it’s safe.”
Tim Pepper, Bradford county unknown release of pressure in a stream bed (tributary to Towanda Creek) resulting in jello-like surface area for roughly 80 sq. ft. on his farm, temporary fence needed to keep away cattle.
Adron and Mary Delarosa organic farmers left Susquehanna County PA farm. A compressor station, and the four wells already mapped within one mile of their home, made the couple fear for their daughter’s health. They moved to avoid any future health issues because of the danger.