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Some Seekers of Rural Life Move Out of Pennsylvania as Gas Rigs Move In

The Aubrees were the lone holdouts against a developer's plan to tap gas in their small town. Now, living in the shadow of drilling rigs, they're leaving

Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

May 3, 2011
Barn in Montrose Susquehanna County, Pa.

Editor's Note: SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Northeastern Pennsylvania in late March to find out how the gas drilling boom is affecting the landscape and the people who call it home. This is the fourth in a multi-part series. (Read parts one , two and three)

MONTROSE, Pa.—After three consecutive nights of tossing and turning, Anna Aubree was so desperate for sleep that she packed a pillow, a blanket and Jasmine the family golden retriever into her car early one March morning.

The 60-something retiree drove seven miles to the relative peace and quiet of the local high school parking lot just to try to refresh her exhausted self by catching a few winks.

All she sought was a brief respite from the constant barrage of pounding, banging, booming and grinding that penetrates the walls of the little yellow one-story house she shares with her husband, Maurice.

"This is my humble abode. But the truth is, I want out," she told SolveClimate News in her thick Brooklyn accent while seated at a dining room table covered with stacks of research documents. "We're surrounded. This noise is horrible. And it never stops. It's all night long."

Anna and Maurice AubreeAnna and Maurice AubreeThe Aubrees bought their 3.75-acre wedge of paradise off a dirt road in rural Pennsylvania in 1988, settling there permanently from Long Island four years later. They planted passels of Colorado spruces along its borders and sketched out plans for a retirement refuge that included a horse farm for their three sons and yet-to-arrive grandchildren.

Two decades ago, hardly anybody thought about their prefabricated house in the tiny Susquehanna County community of Forest Lake resting atop what geologists refer to as the "sweet spot" of Marcellus Shale. It's considered the drilling nirvana of Northeastern Pennsylvania because the band of black sedimentary rock — remnants of an ancient sea bed now buried deep underground — is consistently 400 feet thick and saturated with treasured natural gas.

Holdouts in a Doughnut Hole

A year ago in May, on Mother's Day, the Aubrees discovered that all of their farming neighbors had opted to take advantage of lucrative leasing offers from the Pittsburgh offices of Houston-based .Rig behind the Aubrees' propertyRig behind the Aubrees' property

The Aubrees, situated on a comparative sliver of land, were the lone holdouts.

Even though they didn't sign a lease, they soon started to find out what it means to live in the midst of an energy boom. Last summer, Cabot began orchestrating a series of seismic tests involving helicopters, dynamite and "thumper trucks" that help companies determine where to situate their wells and accompanying infrastructure.

By October, Cabot orchestrated a heavy-duty equipment movement to clear the land just a stone's throw from the Aubrees' property line. Soon, a lengthy roadway led to a staging area designed to accommodate a spacious pad for a series of wells.

You signed a lease that you didn't understand...why?

There's only 1 resource helping landowners negotiate a lease that benefits them, not the Oil and Gas companies. - protect your land, air, and water and get a much better royalty rate than what you're being offered. 

Consumers are told there's no room to negotiate but that's not true.  CSA will draft a lease that will give peace of mind whether you want more money or just don't want the toxic hazards of driliing to pollute your land and water.

The blog inserted a typo into domain name

For some reason the blog comment post changed the C to an S. is correct.

Industry should compensate for destroying value of property

Restating a comment on your previous story, which applies even more to the Aubree's unfortunate situation:

If our national, state and local policy is to allow an industrial process to occur in a way that damages the property and/or health of citizens, then those citizens should be compensated by the industry—and by government entities, if these corporate actions are permitted as public policy—for their losses.  If industrial gas development damages your property, you can't sell it without great loss of value.  For average people, our property is our life's investment, and if you lose the value of your property, you can lose everything. Gas industry activity is creating a new refugee class across our nation, only these refugees may have little choice but to stay in their ruined homes, since the market for them has been greatly reduced. 

Much like eminent domain was used during WWII to build steel mills in the interest of national security, if we as a country choose to buy the gas lobby's claims that we need this "safe" "transition" fuel for our energy security, then do the right thing and allow those whose health and property value will be destroyed to move away and be compensated at market value for their loss. Then the gas companies can be free to destroy—I mean, develop—that land, and their supporters left behind can live with the results, or move out too if necessary, with their newfound riches.


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