Driller defends court order barring anti-fracking activist from Pa. land

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     Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins, center, and her attorney Scott Michelman, left, speak to the media after a hearing in Montrose, Pa. Last fall, a judge signed off on an order barring Scroggins from more than 300 square miles of Susquehanna County or all the land owned or leased by Cabot Oil and Gas. (Katie Colaneri/for StateImpact)

    Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins, center, and her attorney Scott Michelman, left, speak to the media after a hearing in Montrose, Pa. Last fall, a judge signed off on an order barring Scroggins from more than 300 square miles of Susquehanna County or all the land owned or leased by Cabot Oil and Gas. (Katie Colaneri/for StateImpact)

    Susquehanna County’s biggest driller is defending a court order curbing prominent anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins from setting foot on its Pennsylvania property.

     

    At a county court hearing Monday in Montrose, lawyers for Cabot Oil and Gas argued the company wants to limit Scroggins’ access only to active drilling sites. Cabot says Scroggins has blocked access roads and climbed onto equipment, which poses a liability for the company.

    “She could get herself killed,” attorney Amy Barrette told a judge. “She could cause accidents.”

    In October, a judge signed off on an order barring Scroggins from all land owned or leased by Cabot in Susquehanna County or more than 300 square miles. The preliminary injunction applies to land that has not yet been drilled, including the sites of a local hospital and grocery stores. However, Cabot maintains the company never intended for it to be so broad and that Scroggins has since used the injunction to attract attention to her cause.

    “We are willing to admit it only applies to places where there are active surface operations,” Barrette said in court, which was packed with pro- and anti-gas activists alike.

    The arguments continued onto the street outside the courthouse where Barrette confronted Scroggins’ attorney, Scott Michelman, who accused Cabot of making no attempt to clarify the preliminary injunction. Barrette said Cabot has attempted to narrow the order since January.

    “It didn’t have any carve-outs for that! It didn’t say no hospitals, no grocery stores, no friends’ homes,” Michelman called out over the din of protesters with cameras.

    A judge with the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas has asked both sides to submit new proposal that would narrow the injunction to cover only active drilling sites and access roads until a trial in May. It is not yet clear when the judge will sign off on a new order.

    In the meantime, Scroggins will continue to work around the current order by researching where Cabot holds leases at the Susquehanna County courthouse. The injunction violates her civil rights and sends a message to other activists, said her attorney.

    “It tells them you will pay for exposing what is going on at these sites,” Michelman said.

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