Photo Project Portrays Families Impacted by Fracking and Fighting Back

Environmental Integrity Project and International League of Conservation Photographers Team up for “The Human Cost of Energy Production.”

Nadine Grabania visits Buffalo Run Creek in Friendsville, MD, where the ashes of her close friend and fellow Citizen Shale member Marilyn Moor were spread.

Hydraulic fracturing has transformed the American landscape over the last decade, triggering booms in oil and natural gas production, making a few people wealthy – but also inflicting a terrible toll on many rural families and public health.

With debate roiling Maryland, Pennsylvania and communities across the U.S. over whether to ban or restrict fracking, the Environmental Integrity Project teamed up with the International League of Conservation Photographers to tell the stories of six families who feel the impact of hydraulic fracturing every day and who are taking steps to protect or reclaim their health and community.

The photo project, “The Human Cost of Energy Production,” is available online.

HOUSTON CRYOGENIC AND FRACTIONATION PLANT Processing Plant 40.26189158 -80.25548733 This plant, in the heart of Washington County's agricultural belt, is a threat to the health of the those living in the region as well a threat to the agricultural economy and heritage of the region.

Three of the featured families are from Pennsylvania – farmers, a doctor, a nurse and their children – whose quality of life and sometimes health have been disrupted by the proliferation of drilling rigs, tanks, pipelines, trucks, and petrochemical plants that have followed the fracking boom in the state over the last decade.

Three of the families are from Maryland – winemakers, organic farmers, and a kayaking gear designer – who fear that the oil and gas industry will march southward from Pennsylvania and hurt their businesses, threaten their water supply, and ruin their quality of life if the Maryland General Assembly fails to pass legislation this winter extending a ban on fracking in the state.

Condensate tanks at Range Resource’s Moore Park well pad in Robinson Township, Washington County PA.

A two-year moratorium on fracking in Maryland is scheduled to expire in October 2017. Governor Larry Hogan’s administration has imposed regulations that will allow hydraulic fracturing to start after that date. However, Maryland state Senator Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, and colleagues introduced a bill on February 3 that would permanently ban fracking in Maryland, following the example of New York in 2015.

The families featured in “The Human Cost of Energy Production” are fighting back against the encroachment of the powerful oil and gas industry on their lives. In some cases, Pennsylvania farmers who for generations have lived in peaceful partnership with the landscape are having their quality of life shattered by loud drilling rigs and flares, tanker trucks at all hours of the night and air pollution. In another story, a mother whose child suffered chemical exposure works to educate and bring about change.

The stories showcase brave people who refuse to give up or back down, and are organizing to protect their farms and families.  Their concerns touch on issues that extend far beyond state borders to broad questions that all Americans face today:  How much power should average citizens and local governments have to determine the character of their communities?  Is it the people or industry that decides the quality of our lives?

The Duran Family has been farming the same land in Smith Township, Washington County, PA, for four generations. But their property may soon be surrounded by two massive cryogenic natural gas processing plants proposed by major oil and gas players in the Marcellus Shale, MarkWest, and ETC. This is in addition to the Range Resource wells that already surround their property. If built, Sam Duran’s daughter Ayla (age 4), will be able to look onto both of them from her bedroom windows. In his photo, Dan looks across the expanse of their property while his twin brother Sam bales hay.

The narratives were written by EIP Deputy Director Mary Greene from Environmental Integrity Project and captured in images by iLCP Fellows Karen Kasmauski and Garth Lenz.