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Amity and Prosperity : one family and the fracturing of America
2018
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Author Notes
<p> Eliza Griswold is the author of The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam , which won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her translations of Afghan women's folk poems, I Am the Beggar of the World , was awarded the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She has held fellowships from the New America Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and Harvard University, and in 2010<br> the American Academy in Rome awarded her the Rome Prize for her poems. Currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, she lives in New York with her husband and son.</p>
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  New York Times Review

at page 51 of "Amity and Prosperity," Eliza Griswold's saga of fracking's impact on the town of Amity in southwest Pennsylvania, I made a note in the margin: "Why People Hate Government." By then her protagonist's son, Harley Haney, had suffered mouth ulcers, severe abdominal pain, nausea, swollen lymph nodes and dizziness. Wilting in a recliner, he had missed a year and a half of middle school. His dog had died. The neighbors' dogs had died. The tap water was running black and smelled foul. The air reeked. A quarter-mile up the hill, workers in Hazmat suits had applied 819 pounds of a carcinogen to contain a bacterial outbreak at a waste pond for the gas wells near his home. Harley's mother, Stacey Haney, suffered headaches, rashes and fatigue. His younger sister, Paige, had stomachaches and nosebleeds. The neighbors were sick, too, and one, Beth Voyles, kept a dead puppy in her freezer as potential evidence. She had been complaining to the state Department of Environmental Protection for months. An agent there said that the hydrogen sulfide in the local air was naturally occurring. A representative of the company that owned the gas wells, Range Resources, told Stacey to boil her water before drinking it. Harley's condition was finally diagnosed: arsenic poisoning. Staying home sick from school had only made him worse. Toxins accrue. It's at this point that Griswold writes: "Gov. Ed Rendeli, a Democrat, sliced the D.E.P.'s budget of $217,515,000 by 27 percent, one of the biggest cuts in its history. The governor also shaved 19 percent from the $113,369,000 budget of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources" and "started leasing oil and gas rights on public land. In three separate sales, the state made $413 million by leasing 138,866 acres. This marked the beginning of one of the largest public sell-offs in Pennsylvania's recent history." Like the governor, like their neighbors sitting atop Appalachia's gas-rich Marcellus Shale, like the federal government and many thousands of other people across rural America, Stacey and Beth had leased gas rights on their land. Something so ordinary must be safe, the two women figured. And the money the drillers offered was tantalizing. That's part of the tragedy. However grand their dreams (farmers' hopes that gas royalties would make them millionaires), or modest (Stacey's wish for $8,000 to build a barn), or abstract (consumers' faith in clean, cheap natural gas), almost everyone wanted to believe in the fantastic deal. Griswold aims to count the costs. Hydraulic fracturing, as she demonstrates, entails as much violence as the name implies. Putting aside the burden on roads, tranquillity and social relations, to frack a gas well means taking roughly four million gallons of water, poisoning it with chemicals, some of them proprietary secrets, and forcing this brew, together with some three million pounds of clay pellets or silica sand, into a well that extends horizontally a mile or two through shale. The shale cracks. The results: gas, fractured bedrock, depleted freshwater supplies and toxic waste. Now fortified with bacteria, heavy metals and additional toxins, the fracking fluid that returns to the surface presents a problem with no good solution. Some of it stays underground, where it combines with methane and can migrate into aquifers, streams and private wells. Imagine this process multiplied. Stacey's eight acres lay amid five wells; her county, Washington, has 1,146. The state of Pennsylvania has 7,788. The United States has more than 300,000. Politicians still call it clean. In the early 2000s, Congress exempted fracking from provisions of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Amid the wreckage of the financial crisis, President Obama touted it as a win for the economy and the environment. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton pushed it on the world. After leaving office, in 2011, Governor Rendeli became a paid consultant to a private-equity firm with investments in fracking. His former deputy chief of staff, another deputy, his D.E.P. chief and other erstwhile regulators enlisted in the corporate ranks of oil and gas. The fracking boom muted more imaginative approaches to the common welfare, and suppressed honest appraisals of costs. In 2012, Obama's E.P.A. announced that the brown, putrid water issuing from people's taps in Dimock, Pa., posed no danger. In 2016, a Centers for Disease Control agency, using the same samples, declared Dimock's water a health hazard. Every E.P.A. agent who knocked on Stacey Haney's door promising aid disappeared into the mist; one eventually became environmental director of Chesapeake Energy. Lately, as landowners' royalties have shrunk and the financial press warns that the boom looks like a bubble, systemic dials seem locked on "drill." The current governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, a Democrat, recently requested more D.E.P. inspectors, not to address thousands of frack-related citizen complaints but to speed up permits for new drilling. D.E.P., some people say, stands for "Department of Energy Production" or "Don't Expect Protection." Griswold reports so much government neglect, deception and collusion - here augmented with data from the Public Accountability Initiative, NPR's Statelmpact project and the nonprofit investigative site Public Herald - that as I read I abbreviated my marginal notes to "WPHG." By the time her story reaches 2016, it's plain that people who have lost their water, their home's value, their farm animals and pets, their health and hope for relief would not be making conventional electoral choices. Beth Voyles voted for Donald Trump; Stacey Haney, for Jill Stein. The broad political costs of fracking are not expressly Griswold's subject, however. Her impressive research notwithstanding, "Amity and Prosperity" is at heart a David and Goliath story fit for the movies. It has everything but a happy ending: a bucolic setting concealing fortune and danger; poor but proud locals who've endured sequential boom-bust cycles of resource extraction (Prosperity is a neighboring town ravaged by long-wall mining); tough, reluctant victim-heroes; grisly scenes of animal die-off; and courtroom drama, as a tenacious husband-wife legal team takes on the industry and the state, wins one important case but can't outlast its adversaries' moneyed obstructionism. Stacey and Beth settle out of court and submit to a gag order. Harley gets healthier once the family abandons its home, but, with no illusions left, he finishes high school on the internet and takes a job laying gas pipeline. Advantage, Goliath. Mood carries the story. We know Harley by his long alienation. We know the lawyer Kendra Smith by her mastery of an alphabet of toxins, her slog through documents and her ire as Range Resources refuses to disclose all its proprietary chemicals. We know Stacey by her dedication - to her kids and three jobs, to whatever tradition she can salvage and fight she can muster. Mostly we know her by her fury and her fears. The book's prologue reproduces a raging note she posted on her forsaken farmhouse after thieves stripped it of metal. Through most of the action she strives to be polite: Don't make anyone mad, she reasons, it'll only get worse for you. It gets worse anyway. Range Resources inexorably appropriates Amity's allegiances and civic life. The county fair devolves into occupied territory, an echo of Griswold's previous experience reporting in Asia and Africa. From so vital a perspective, one longs for at least a snapshot of national scale - the West pocked with trackpads, the almost daily earthquakes in Oklahoma from waste injection, the tens of thousands of people who've had no say in drilling near their homes, the workers risking damage, the question everywhere: Who will defend the water? Griswold ascribes ideas to Stacey about "the American dream" and the need to "tough it out," about the "price one paid for progress" and failing "through no fault of her own." Maybe Stacey used those phrases (she is not directly quoted doing so), but she should have been spared banality. She fell for a con. Her own night terrors best convey her sense of responsibility and fracture: images of driving in reverse, of her children trapped or falling, of her inability to control anything - dreams from which she awoke "caught between gasping for breath and fearing the air." Until land is laid waste nearby, people don't think much about sacrificed populations or the historic function of government rooted in colonization and corporatism. Thieving, or regulating theft, is a simple term for it. People who've lost their water to fracking, like those who live in impoverished, toxified communities everywhere, like the people of Flint, are on a continuum that began with the indigenous peoples, the enslaved Africans and the "waste people" ("refuse," as Benjamin Franklin called poor Pennsylvanians), who were forced off the land, into bondage or penury at America's dawn. The nature of oppression changes, but the levers of power that have helped some to prosper while allowing many to sink are hardened in place, and the persistent question, implicit in this valuable, discomforting book, is Who will unstick them? Hydraulic fracturing entails as much violence as the name implies. JoANN WYPIJEWSKI is working on a book about encounters with America in a time ofcrackup.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Journalist Griswold (The Tenth Parallel) comprehensively examines the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit that Stacey Haney, a nurse and single mother, filed against energy company Range Resources. The book opens with an account of the shale gas boom of the mid-2000s, when fracking (hydraulic fracturing) brought unexpected windfalls to financially distressed towns on the border of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, including Haney's hometown, Amity, and the neighboring town of Prosperity in rural Pennsylvania. Residents welcomed the money from mineral leases, using it to pay for needed roofs and fences. Haney did, too, until her son, Hartley, was hospitalized for fatigue and tested positive for high levels of arsenic in his blood, which they believed was due to runoff from the fracking on a nearby property. When Haney and her daughter, Paige, got tested, they too were diagnosed with arsenic poisoning. The community reacted to the news and Haney's subsequent lawsuit with suspicion and animosity, accusing Haney of "acting out of hysteria." Griswold combines Haney's perspective with those of her attorneys, John Smith and Kendra Smith, during the years-long legal saga, which was settled for an undisclosed amount in early 2018. With empathy and diligence, Griswold brings attention to the emotional and financial tolls Haney and her family endured in this revealing portrait of rural America in dire straits. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
<p> Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction <br> <br> In Amity and Prosperity , the prizewinning poet and journalist Eliza Griswold tells the story of the energy boom's impact on a small town at the edge of Appalachia and one woman's transformation from a struggling single parent to an unlikely activist. </p> <p>Stacey Haney is a local nurse working hard to raise two kids and keep up her small farm when the fracking boom comes to her hometown of Amity, Pennsylvania. Intrigued by reports of lucrative natural gas leases in her neighbors' mailboxes, she strikes a deal with a Texas-based energy company. Soon trucks begin rumbling past her small farm, a fenced-off drill site rises on an adjacent hilltop, and domestic animals and pets start to die. When mysterious sicknesses begin to afflict her children, she appeals to the company for help. Its representatives insist that nothing is wrong.</p> <p>Alarmed by her children's illnesses, Haney joins with neighbors and a committed husband-and-wife legal team to investigate what's really in the water and air. Against local opposition, Haney and her allies doggedly pursue their case in court and begin to expose the damage that's being done to the land her family has lived on for centuries. Soon a community that has long been suspicious of outsiders faces wrenching new questions about who is responsible for their fate, and for redressingit: The faceless corporations that are poisoning the land? The environmentalists who fail to see their economic distress? A federal government that is mandated to protect but fails on the job? Drawing on seven years of immersive reporting, Griswold reveals what happens when an imperiled town faces a crisis of values, and a family wagers everything on an improbable quest for justice.</p>
Table of Contents
Mapsp. viii
A Notep. 3
Prologuep. 7
Part IHoopies
1Fair 2010p. 11
2When The Boom Beganp. 18
3The Mess Next Doorp. 29
4Arsenipp. 37
5Airbornep. 46
6Hoopiesp. 55
7"One Head & One Heart, & Live in True Friendship & Amity as One People"p. 62
8Doubtersp. 68
9Hang 'Em Highp. 78
10Blood and Urinep. 85
11Airportp. 97
Part IIBurden of Proof
12"Mr. and Mrs. Atticus Pinch"p. 105
13Mutual Distrustp. 123
14Buzzp. 131
15Missing Pagesp. 136
16Rainbow Waterp. 142
17"Dear Mr. President"p. 148
18Insurgentsp. 155
19Burden of Proofp. 159
20Policing the Statep. 165
21What Money Doesp. 174
22Ruin Is The Destination Toward Which All Men Rushp. 193
23Remote Peoplep. 200
24Ignorant Motherfuckersp. 208
25A Special Agentp. 219
26Full Metal Jacketp. 225
Part IIIThe Right to Clean Air and Pure Water
27The Right to Clean Air and Pure Waterp. 235
28Dreamsp. 243
29Closing Down The Pondsp. 248
30Chasing Ghostsp. 259
31"The Junkyard Plaintiff"p. 266
32Divap. 270
33Fair 2016p. 278
Epilogue: White Hatsp. 289
Postscriptp. 301
A Note On Sourcesp. 307
Notesp. 309
Acknowledgmentsp. 317
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