Revised Order Lifts Restrictions on Hundreds of Square Miles of Advocate’s Home County
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A court ruling today in a case against a Pennsylvania anti-fracking activist is a significant victory for advocates everywhere, said Public Citizen, which represented the activist in court.
Susquehanna County Judge Kenneth Seaman today substantially narrowed an injunction placed on anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins in a lawsuit brought by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. Public Citizen represented Scroggins in court on Monday arguing that the prior injunction – which barred Scroggins from land where Cabot has a lease to extract gas from under the surface, including Scroggins’ grocery store, the homes of some of her friends and the nearest hospital – was overbroad and violated Scroggins’ First Amendment rights. The revised injunction no longer applies to properties on which Cabot has mineral leases but no active operations.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Scroggins, a 63-year-old resident of Brackney, Pa., and grandmother of two. “I am much better off today than I was yesterday in terms of where I can go.”
“Today’s ruling is a big victory for Vera and for advocates everywhere,” said Scott Michelman, Public Citizen attorney, who argued the motion to vacate the injunction on Monday. “We obtained most of what we wanted from this motion to vacate, and also beat back Cabot’s suggestion to impose buffer zones of as much as 500 feet on Ms. Scroggins. Today’s ruling shows that big gas companies like Cabot can’t punish advocates for their speech.”
The original injunction, entered in October 2013, applied to more than 300 square miles. Today’s order bars Scroggins only from Cabot-owned properties and from within 100 feet of any active well pad or the access roads associated with them. “We have concerns that the 100-foot buffer zone sweeps too broadly into areas open to the public where Vera might engage in activities protected by the First Amendment,” noted Michelman. “We’ll be considering how best to address those concerns at trial on May 1.”
Scroggins is also represented by the law office of Gerald A. Kinchy, in Sayre, Pa., and ACLU of Pennsylvania Legal Director Witold J. “Vic” Walczak.