Living with fracking

What’s it like to live next door to the fracking rigs? Six photographers spent two years in gas-rich Pennsylvania trying to find out. 

The following pictures are a window into the world of people living with shale gas drilling, otherwise known as fracking. This process involves pumping water and chemicals underground at high pressure to break up rocks and force out the natural gas inside them.

Shale gas is promoted as a cheap form of home-grown energy, but it’s still a fossil fuel and burning it contributes to climate change – just like coal, oil and conventionally extracted gas. 

And what about its effect on people’s lives? In the US, there is evidence of contamination of drinking water and air pollution from fracking-related activities. In Britain, many communities are challenging plans to have fracking on their doorsteps.

As these pictures show, America is much further down the line than Britain, and the frackers have already moved in, unpacked their suitcases and put their slippers under the bed.

These photographs document this transition and explore the resulting human and environmental effects. They aim to present both the winners and losers from fracking: those who have made money from selling land, for example, and those who have had to move away.

Together, they present a moving and thought-provoking story, one that gets under the skin of shale-gas drilling on a massive scale.

Brian Cohen

Bob Miller. The Millers leased their land for gas drilling and have made enough from the deal to enable them to keep their Meadow Creek Farm running.  

Brian Cohen

Janet McIntyre (left) meets with Emily Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Environmental Law Clinic, as part of an ongoing inquiry into Janet’s situation. 

Lynn Johnson

Reverend Leah Schade, a Lutheran Minister and environmental activist, prays for sanity and balance in the fracking fight – in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania state capitol. 

Lynn Johnson

Betty Whyte stands in her now empty mobile home in Riverdale Trailer Park. The land underneath was sold to Aqua America as the site for a water extraction plant, to be used in shale gas drilling. Residents, many of whom were elderly and living on restricted budgets, had to move suddenly, with only $1,200 to $2,500 as compensation. Betty and her husband, Bill, have been married for 51 years. This was their home for much of that time. 

Nina Berman

Matt Walker, from the Clean Air Council, and Ralph Kisburg of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, visit the one-room home of organic farmers Adron and Mary Delarosa, alerting them to a meeting about a compressor station planned near their home. The station, and the four wells already mapped within one mile of their home, have made the couple fear for their daughter’s health. Springville, Susquehanna County. 

Noah Addis

Fred McIntyre poses for a portrait at his home in Connoquenessing Township, Pennsylvania. After the gas drilling started McIntyre, who has lived in his home for 20 years, drinks only bottled water.

Scott Goldsmith

Lee Zavislak of Amity, Pennsylvania, during a truck-driving class at the Western Area Career & Technology School in Canonsburg. The school is helping gas companies fill their need for truck drivers. Lee said she would not drive for the gas companies because of the environmental damage they are doing. 

Scott Goldsmith

A hearing in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called by US senator Bob Casey, to discuss action plans for accidents caused by gas drillers. Stephanie Hallowich, a local landowner in dispute with a gas company, is crying as she listens to testimony from a person with severe health problems thought to be caused by water and air contamination from fracking. 

This series is a Friends of the Earth project and originally appeared here. Text is reproduced with permission and is copyright Friends of the Earth and not available for crossposting without prior permission from Friends of the Earth. The photos are copyright the MSDP.