In Western Pennsylvania, an Energy Boom Not Visibly Stifled
By: Jonathan Weisman
The New York Times
SMITHFIELD, Pa. -- From his farm nestled far from the big cities, in the wooded hills above the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers, David Headley has not heard much about the battles in Washington over regulations that Republicans say are stifling a domestic energy revolution.
At the ground level of that revolution Mr. Headley, a 53-year-old former body shop owner and unemployed bus driver, does not see any regulations at all.
For three years, he and his wife, Linda, have wrestled with the land men, natural gas drillers and pipeline builders who are turning this very sleepy corner of Western Pennsylvania into an energy boom land. The farm Mr. Headley bought in 2006 for his semiretirement has become something of a nightmare. Gas wells leak. Drilling blowouts have spewed fine, chalky bentonite into trout-stocked Georges Creek, turning it a milky white. A spring where his wife’s three horses once watered now bubbles and belches. Touched with a flame, it will ignite.
The Headleys blame the men who worked on the drilling platform in their front yard for the disappearance of their beagle, Sarah. Linda had to rescue their remaining dog, Banjo, from a sludge pond, leaving her hands cracked and burning for six months.
And last month, a dispute over an $11,000 payment for a pipeline right of way ended with state troopers, guns drawn, pouring out of 10 patrol cars and accusing Mr. Headley of criminal trespassing on his own land. A judge forced the gas company to pay the money -- and slapped Mr. Headley with an injunction to keep 50 feet from the pipeline running through his property.
“They’re doing whatever they want, whenever they want to,” he said, shaking his head as he walked by the shale gas well head and separation tanks humming in sight and earshot of his front porch.
For more than a year now, Republicans in Washington -- and Mitt Romney on the stump -- have been pressing the case that the Obama administration is trying to squash an energy boom already well under way, fostered by the technological development of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
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