Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town

Colin Jerolmack. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-691-17903-2
Jerolmack (The Global Pigeon), an environmental studies professor at NYU, offers a dense and deeply reported study of the impact of fracking on the residents of Lycoming County, Pa. Sitting atop the Marcellus shale, which is believed to hold over 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Lycoming County has 832 wells. Jerolmack, who took a leave of absence from NYU to live in the county for eight months, describes the “public/private paradox” of fracking: some residents earn substantial royalties for leasing their property to gas companies, while the entire community suffers the consequences, including poisoned wells, destroyed roads, and noise pollution. Jerolmack details town hall meetings and interviews lessors, gas workers, and anti-fracking activists to explore the conflict between personal sovereignty and public good. He also delves into the history of land ownership, noting that early American laws extended property rights “up to Heaven and down to Hell,” and that only in the U.S. are private citizens granted exclusive mineral rights to their properties. As a result, Jerolmack argues, the fracking industry is poorly regulated by the U.S. government, leaving individual lessors and their communities little recourse when something goes wrong. Lay readers may be overwhelmed by the wealth of detail, but environmental activists and lawmakers will find much food for thought. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/03/2021
Release date: 04/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-691-22026-0
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