Significant win for anti-fracking activist

Public Citizen was in court Monday arguing the case of Vera Scroggins, who has been protesting and documenting the damage caused by fracking the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania. A few months ago, she was hit with an injunction barring her from any property that fracking company Cabot Oil and Gas owns, or to which Cabot leases the mineral rights — a restriction that covers a huge swath of territory in her home county including her grocery store, the homes of friends, and the hospital nearest her home.

Today, the judge substantially narrowed the injunction. The new order lifts the restrictions on properties that Cabot merely passively leases (without any active operations); it applies only to Cabot-owned property, its active operations, and its access roads. This is a big win for Scroggins, who obtained most of what she was seeking in moving to vacate the injunction and is now in a much better position to carry on her protest and documentary activities (as well as access businesses open to the public and visit her friends). Notably, the judge also rejected Cabot's various alternative proposals that would have imposed 150- or 500-foot buffer zones around parts of their operations.

It's not a total win — the judge imposed a 100-foot buffer zone around well pads and access roads, and this zone cuts into Scroggins's ability to stop and take pictures on parts of public roads and to be on certain areas of privately-owned land to which the owners invite her — but it's a big step in the right direction and sends a powerful message that large corporate interests can't bully critics into silence by getting massive injunctions against them.

To get a sense of the atmosphere at Monday's hearing — which some observers speculated drew the largest crowd ever at the Susquehanna County courthouse — here's a link to a YouTube clip of our post-hearing press conference. (The clip is about 24 minutes in total. There are some fireworks after the 12-and-a-half minute mark.)