Colin Jerolmack is a professor of environmental studies and sociology at New York University and the author of Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom and Community in an American Town (Princeton University Press, April 2021).
Scott McClain, a retired game warden, lives on a secluded five-acre homestead nestled at the base of a densely wooded mountain in the Appalachian foothills of north-central Pennsylvania. A hunting camp sits at the summit. To be neighborly, McClain granted the camp permission to use his driveway and extend it up the mountain in 2002.
He came to regret that decision years later when the camp leased its mineral rights for shale gas drilling and allowed a petroleum company to use his driveway. Hundreds of earthmovers and big rigs began going up and down the gravel access road, just yards from Scott’s house. His chimney collapsed from the reverberations. McClain begged the camp to deny the gas trucks access on the grounds that it was destroying his home and was against the spirit of the legally binding easement he granted. But camp owners, on their way to becoming “shaleionaires,” ignored his pleas. The car... Read more