“We have really no power, no control of them coming or over what they do, where they do it or when they do it so you know it was a pretty rude awakening for us.”
-John Fenton, Pavillion, Wyoming
Telling personal stories
The oil and gas boom has been underway for a number of years in many locations across North America, and there are now a lot of stories about individuals and families whose lives have been personally affected. This post is part of a regular series of those stories on this blog to help you envision what could happen if drilling expands along the Beartooth Front. Look for these once a week.
Today’s story centers on one of the most troubled spots in the history of fracking: Pavillion, Wyoming. It’s the story of John Fenton, whose life was completely disrupted by gas drilling on his farm. He’s dedicated his life to telling his story, which he has done all over the world. It’s always best to hear directly from the storytellers themselves, and today we’ve got a multimedia version, with audio and video interviews with John.
We’ll tell the story of Pavillion in another post later this week.
John Fenton, Pavillion, Wyoming
John Fenton is a farmer from Pavillion Wyoming who has been living with the effects of the gas industry for many years: ground, water, and air pollution; surface degradation, property devaluation and other significant impacts. John and his wife Catherine have 24 gas wells on their farm.
In 2008 the US Environmental Protection Agency investigated discolored ground water in Pavillion. In 2010, after it found the water contaminated with dangerous chemicals and methane caused by fracking, the EPA warned Pavillion residents not to drink the water and use a fan when bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion. Later the EPA was pressured to end their investigation.
The gas company now trucks in drinking water for local farmers. Some eat from paper plates because they cannot wash dishes without contamination, and they must open their windows when they have a shower. The water flowing out of the bores and taps smells like diesel and can be lit if contained in a jar. Several people in the district have developed neuropathy or other health ailments. Animals have also become sick.
John Fenton has a gas well situated only 100 yards from his house and the snow melt irrigation district has 200 gas wells dotted over the farm land.
Other local farmers in the Pavillion area also suffer from industrial land use clashing with agriculture with well pads, access roads, pipelines, truck visits and compressor stations all affecting farm operations.
John has become a leading spokesperson for the effects of unconventional gas. He has a great story to tell and is an effective and authentic communicator.
Audio and video interviews
Here is an interview John did with a radio station in Australia. It describes in his own words the devastating effects of gas exploration in Pavillion (12 minutes).
And a video interview: