Anti-fracking activist takes on Cabot Oil and Gas in court

By Matt Porter

March 24, 2014 Updated Mar 24, 2014 at 6:21 PM EDT

Montrose, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins defended herself against a restraining order imposed by Cabot Oil and Gas at the Susquehanna County Courthouse.

Outside of the courtroom, Scroggins stood firm on her right to protest near the large drilling platforms in Northern Pennsylvania.

Scroggins said no matter the decision in her case, she wouldn't stop her work against what she calls the 'dangerous industrialization' of the Northern Tier.

"If I have to go to jail to protect my planet and my life and to expose this industry," Scroggins said. "Yes."

Scroggins' attorneys quickly jumped in to say their client is obeying the terms injunction imposed by Cabot.

The activist called into question the gas company's decision to come after her now.

"This has been going on for five years, and if this was such a danger, why is it such a danger now," she said.

Inside the courtroom, attorneys debated how far the injunction should reach.

Scroggins' attorneys said the original injunction goes beyond Cabot drilling rigs to include anywhere the company owns mineral rights, a detail that could include public roads and places including a hospital.

Scot Michelman, an attorney for the consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen, said the real intent of the injunction is to intimidate demonstrators.

"It tells them you will pay for what is going on at these sites," Michelman said. "You will pay for speaking out against the big oil and gas companies."

The attorneys for Cabot said they are more than willing to narrow the original injunction to apply only to active Cabot operations.

In fact, Cabot officials said they had made attempts in January to do so, but they were refused by Scroggins' legal team.

At minimum, Cabot wants to restrict Scroggins from being no closer than 500 feet to drilling sites under construction, and no closer than 150 feet from complete and operational rigs.

The company also wants to keep Scroggins at least 150 feet away from any access roads, which they say are small and carry large vehicle traffic. Cabot attorneys say Scroggins brings buses of people with her and hinders traffic.

Cabot spokesperson George Stark said the ultimate concern is safety.

"They are not at a location where you would want a bus load of people coming in to walk around and observe active locations," Stark said.

Stark said when Scroggins trespasses on Cabot's land; she endangers herself, her guests, and Cabot employees.

The injunction was to keep people safe, and wasn't intended to go beyond Cabot property.

"This is not about going to the grocery store, this is not about the hospital," Stark said.

The judge reserved his decision in the case for a later date.