Vera Scroggins is presently under a court mandated Temporary and Emergency Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent her from getting too close to the fracking operations of Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, one of 7 energy companies in her area.
This TRO has been in effect for about a year and she has been doing her tours for about 5 years taking everyday people and officials from various agencies and elected offices, including foreigners, throughout her township and surrounding towns.
This video is a reminder and review of her still on-going daily activities that should not be stopped. If anything, they should be increased. She receives no salary for her more than full-time volunteer work.
You can go to jail for parking in a friend's driveway in Dimock Pennsylvania. That sounds crazy, but the Fracklands are a crazy place. If a corporation wants to stop a citizen from filming their activities - they have the power to throw them in jail. Not only is the regulatory apparatus captured in Pennsylvania, so is the judiciary. That's a fancy way of saying - industry owns judges.
Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation's actions to stop a local activist are a good place to see this in action. Cabot Oil and Gas is a billion dollar company heavily invested in the recent hydro-fracturing boom, known to most as 'fracking'. Vera Scroggins is an activist who leads public tours of the growing fracking infrastructure taking hold in her community. She escorts citizens, news crews, journalists and politicians who want to see fracking in action, a practice the local gas industry took offense to from the start. She also films gas pads and related infrastructure, at times reporting hazards to OSHA or the state's regulatory agencies. Since these agencies have faced downsizing and budget cuts, making them unable to well police the gas industry's activities, Vera's work is an asset to her community. Of course, Industry doesn't see it that way.
In the Fall of 2013, Vera received paperwork in the mail alerting her to an injunction placed against her by Cabot Gas and Oil. The next day police officers knocked on Vera's front door. They informed Vera that she would be required to appear in court the following Monday for a hearing on the case. That was Friday. Vera had 3 days to get a lawyer and construct a defense. Obviously, she represented herself at that hearing. Cabot appeared with three well paid, slick lawyers. Vera appeared with a few supporters who volunteered to testify for her. Though a copy of the transcript of that hearing will set you back two hundred dollars, it's almost worth it to read how well Vera, with no experience in court, defended herself.
Cabot accused Vera of trespassing and endangering public safety, though they could produce no proof except the testimony of their own workers. No photos, no police reports, no evidence of harm of any kind. Regardless, Judge Kenneth Seaman’s ruled for Cabot. His ruling gave Cabot exactly what it asked for, barring Vera from a full 40% of her county. She could no longer go to certain grocery stores, her eye doctor, her dog's vet. Any land that Cabot owned was off limits and she had to abide by buffer zones around gas installations.
That sounds crazy, a corporation telling an American citizen where they can and can not be, but that's just part of the full frontal attack the gas industry has waged against Vera. Public character assassination is another tactic used extensively by the gas industry as a way to silence critics. Anyone who speaks up faces this kind of attack. The way they publicly attacked Vera was particularly disgusting. Combing through years of public comments, industry found one from thirteen years ago they used to claim Vera is a pedophile. It's an oft repeated and grotesque accusation and a good example of the mentality of the gas industry's propagandists and supporters. They will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who speaks out about the many downsides of the Fracking Boom. Luckily, nothing they do will stop Vera. She's still giving tours and filming gas installations.
Because the Gas and Oil industry is almost impossible to beat in court, Vera's had a hard time finding lawyers willing and able to argue her ongoing case. That may be part of the reason Cabot has crossed many lines in their attempt to silence Vera. A few months ago they accused her of trespassing on a property she'd never been to. Cabot has tried to bar her from friends’ houses that are, in Cabot's opinion, too close to their gas wells. But the antics they pulled at a hearing on February 25th of 2015 take the cake. The hearing was over an accusation by Cabot that Vera parked on one of Cabot's access roads. It was a fabrication supported by the false testimony of one worker who claims he saw Vera's car as he was driving by a gas pad. In fact, Vera's car was parked in the driveway of a friend, 700 feet from the access road. The only photo produced by Cabot showed Vera's car in the right place. No evidence of actual trespass was supplied. Yet the judge threw out the testimony of three witnesses in favor of Cabot's one lying gas worker and found Vera in contempt of court, then let the prosecution take him to lunch. Vera will have the option of paying exorbitant fines for something she did not do, or she can choose to go to jail. It's not really a choice for Vera who is retired, living on a pension and who works only as a volunteer.
"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." Unknown
When industry can jail critics with the ease Cabot enjoys, we must face the fact that we really are being ruled by corporations, not by wisdom, reason or democracy. Cabot has racked up 611 violations in recent years and millions in fines. That's more violations than they have gas wells. With that record, how can Cabot get away with claiming Vera Scroggins is a threat to public safety? The answer may well be this simple; they own the place.
The fight to keep anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins off of all Cabot-leased property in Susquehanna County is heating up, with the attorneys engaging in virtually unprecedented heated debate outside the courtroom and in front of the press. The sweeping injunction prohibits Vera from stepping foot on roughly 40% of the property in the county - and includes businesses, schools, hospitals and private homes. The stakes are high for Cabot and their "take no prisoners"-style legal team leaves no doubt of their willingness to squash all opposition - and individual civil rights be damned.