Pennsylvania

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Court permanently bars activist from gas sites [updated]

Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins says she wants to appeal a court ruling that permanently bars her from Cabot Oil & Gas sites.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins says she wants to appeal a court ruling that permanently bars her from Cabot Oil & Gas sites.

A Susquehanna County judge has ruled that 63-year-old anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins will be permanently barred from setting foot on Cabot Oil & Gas sites.*

Scroggins has been a thorn in the company’s side for years. She hosts a lot of citizen gas tours around Susquehanna County where Cabot has most of its operations. The company says she has repeatedly trespassed on its property and poses a safety risk.

“I’d like to appeal it,” Scroggins says of the ruling. “I consider it an unfair decision that is further restricting me– to keep me from exposing Cabot and the gas industry.”

Cabot spokesman George Stark says the company is pleased with the outcome.

“We hope that Ms. Scroggins is now able to respect the judge’s parameters, which have been reestablished unequivocally,” he wrote in an email. “We are hopeful that this finally marks an end to these events.”

The feud made international news earlier this year when Cabot got a sweeping (yet temporary) court injunction against her– effectively barring her from nearly half the county. In March the order was revised to be much less restrictive. It blocked her from Cabot sites and required she maintain a 100 foot buffer zone. However, that revised order was still temporary and the two sides were negotiating a permanent deal about where she can and can’t go.

Last month the gas company sought to have her held in contempt of court-- which could have meant fines or jail time– for coming too close to one of its access roads. Susquehanna County Judge Kenneth Seamans ruled in her favor. He agreed she got too close but declined to punish her, since there appeared to be some confusion about whether it was a wellpad access road or a family driveway.

Cabot also asked the judge to impose a permanent injunction on Scroggins. The final deal means she’ll have to stay off its property and observe buffer zones ranging from 25 to 100 feet.

Although Scroggins initially agreed to those terms, she later changed her mind and refused to sign the settlement documents. Cabot argued her signature was unnecessary and that the agreement should stand.

In a November 6th ruling, Judge Seamans sided with Cabot and found that Scroggins had, in fact, agreed to the deal through her attorneys.

Scroggins says she’s uncomfortable with Cabot having the power to prohibit her from public roads. The buffer zones would also extend on to other people’s private property, even if she has the permission to be there.

Note: this story has been updated. The judge later withdrew this order, at the request of Scroggins’ attorneys. After both sides presented more evidence, the order was reinstated in May 2015.

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