Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vera Scroggins v Cabot Oil and Gas

They say that we should never underestimate the ability of a small group of people, or an individual, to make a huge difference.

That is especially true when it's the right "small group", or a strong and committed "individual". 

That is what can be said about Vera Scroggins. A Susquehanna County, PA grandmother and self-declared citizen journalist who decided to take on the oil and gas industry by documenting the destruction and abuse by Cabot Oil and Gas, and offering "toxic tours" to anyone who wanted to see unconventional gas drilling - aka: fracking - for themselves first hand.

Vera had been doing this for over five years. Showing average people, documentary film makers, journalists, celebrities, community leaders, and politicians, from around the world what fracking really looks like and the devastating effect it has had, and continues to have, on people living in shalefields of Northeast Pennsylvania.

Vera's decision to take on what is arguably the most powerful industry in the world, does not come without taking risks and personal sacrifice. Risk and sacrifices Vera was willing make.

Why? Because like many of us who have made the choice to stand-up and speak out, Vera cares about people, her children, her grandchildren, the future of Pennsylvania, and the planet.

Last year, as Vera's toxic tours and YouTube videos began to get national and international recognition, Cabot Oil and Gas - the company that poisoned an entire aquifer, destroyed the drinking water supply for much of Dimock, PA, and diminished the property value, quality of life, and threatened the health of more than 20 families on Carter Road, as documented in Josh Fox's documentary "Gasland", decided to attempt to silence Vera.

Vera hadn't broken any law, hadn't interfered with the company's operations, or in any way posed a threat to Cabot, or anyone else. Therefore Cabot, in a desperate attempt to intimidate Vera and send a message to other concerned citizens who were speaking out against this extreme natural gas extraction process, filed and won an injunction against Vera barring her from setting foot on 312.5 square miles of Pennsylvania, including restaurants, shopping centers, doctor's offices, and many other public places most people regularly frequent.   

This outrageous injustice levied on this 62 year old grandmother/activist and founder of the grassroots organization, Citizens for Clean Water, didn't go un-noticed.

This violation of her 1st amendment right of free speech, and her constitutional right to mobility caught the attention of ACLU attorneys who have stepped up to defend Vera, pro-bono.

On Monday, March 24, 2014, Vera had another day in court, this time to appeal this ridiculous and unjust injunction and violation of her rights.

Although no final decision was made, her attorneys made a strong case in her favor. There was an outpouring of support for Vera from citizens and activists from across the state and beyond who showed up in court to witness her appeal.

Why is this case so important? If Cabot gets away with this bogus 'slap suit' against Vera Scroggins, it will set a dangerous precedent and the oil and gas industry will use this as a legal precedent to silence anyone who dares to tell the truth about their activities.

We can not allow that to happen. Vera deserves our full public support. If Cabot gets away with silencing Vera, who is going to be next?

I, along with many others, was proud to stand with her and the crowd of other socially, environmentally, and morally responsible citizens at the Montrose Court house today, and intend to be there with her in solidarity when the judge announces his final decision.

We all need to stand in support of each other if we are to win this battle for our children, and our children's children and stop this industry from advancing. I refuse to accept, or believe this fight to protect our families and our way of life is a lost cause.

At a press conference following the hearing on Monday, Vera and her attorneys spoke to the press and answered questions.

To hear this press conference and hear Vera's own words as to why she does what she does, and will continue to speak out, click on this link to the video: "Vera Scroggins v Cabot Oil and Gas on my Youtube channel:   

To view a complete set of still photos taken by my Shale Justice Coalition colleague, Dr. Wendy Lynne Lee, go to:

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