People that no one is helping

This used to be a paved road. Cindy Kalbach watches the surface of Elk Run Road surface fly away--and breathes the dust.


Cindy wants to get the word out about what is happening in her area. She’s tried Anderson Cooper, Good Morning American, and Erin Brockovich, to no avail. “We are people that no one is helping,” said Cindy. “We were the guinea pigs.”  

Drilling has been going on in Marshlands near Gaines, PA for at least two years. Cindy will not lease, even though Ultra has been by twice. But a guy named Bergey  owns thousands of acres there, and the majority of wells drilled so far are on his land. “He’s made $6 million off leases in Gaines,” said Cindy. “Our property values have gone to crap.”  

Her husband was a Navy Seal in Vietnam. He fought for the U.S., and in the process got doused with Agent Orange, damaging his lungs. He still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.  

“It was his dream to live out here,” said Cindy. “He came here for peace. For health, a piece of mind, and beauty.”  

But it’s been anything but peaceful lately. Some neighbors have signed leases for drilling, and others haven’t, “setting people against people,” said Cindy.  

The truck traffic has been relentless and occurs around the clock. Tensions between residents and industry workers has been escalating, with the only roads to some residences closed or impassable for weeks at a time.  

Herman Gilbert, who residents describe as a hermit, snapped after his road was closed for three weeks. He tried to drive over the fabric that workers were covering with gravel. Instead, he injured both of them.  

Other rural neighbors are getting fed up in ways that out-of-state workers may not comprehend, said Cindy’s son Sean. These people were born in the area and will probably never leave. “That valley is their world,” he said. “They’ve only got their piece of land, and they feel like the world’s forgot them.”   

“This is where I live. This is where my family chose to make a home” said Sean. “My parents suffered hardships to get the American Dream–their home–and because somebody wants to make a lot of money, it’s getting trampled on.”  

“We have been so content here,” said Cindy. “We have future plans here. I wanted to start a business. But who’s going to drive here now?”

6 comments on “People that no one is helping”

  1. Cindy-
    Thanks so much for sharing part of your story. I think the social consequences of gas drilling have yet to be researched- how neighbors turn against each other and people become so distraught that they behave in very strange uncharacteristic ways. Who can blame them? To lose friends while this is going on is heart-breaking. This is a time when we need our friends and neighbors. Keep telling your story. Do I have your permission to post this on my blog “Gas Wells Are Not Our Friends?”

    Peacegirl aka Carol

  2. I hope Cindy sees this and gets to see your comment!

    There has been some research on the social part of this. However, it was done on energy boomtowns in the 1970s, and somehow most people haven’t been thinking about how it might apply today. From Energy Boomtowns & Natural Gas: “A significant body of literature shows that boomtowns can harbor disproportinate increases in social problems such as crime, mental health problems, community disatisfaction, education shortfalls, and other indicators.”

    Compounding the problem is the industry’s PR machine, which is designed to promote drilling, not to prepare people for what will actually happen.

  3. Thank you Cindy for allowing your story to be shared and thank you A Squeaky Wheel for writing and posting this story. I am afraid that we are in for more of these stories in the days and months to come. My daughter is operating a dairy farm, has a young son, and one on the way,( my precious grandchildren) and she has recently described her life as if she is living in an hour glass and the time is running out and she feels as if she has no control over anything. I never envisioned that these drilling operations were going to be so disruptive and such a change to our treasured way of life, it saddens me greatly to come to this realization.

    My children too wanted to stay in the area in which they new as “home” and now all of this has changed within a year. Our family is finding it hard to except the impending change for our area.
    “Feeling Helpless” in NEPA

  4. What is meant by this sentence: “Instead, he injured both of them.”

    Also, I know what damaged roads are like from the trucks, and the dust. I agree that it could all be done better…but Cindy should know that NOT leasing wont keep them from drilling near her or even keep them from sucking gas from under her property. They will anyway. If they are giving you something for something they are going to do anyway, you should at least take the compensation. Otherwise they are getting the gas out from under your land for free.
    Look up the “Rule of Capture”.

    I DON”T think you’d be a hypocrite by receiving money for leasing/royalties and at the same time complaining about the way its being done. There is nothing wrong with receiving funding and still trying to get people to do the drilling more responsibly.

    • Rob,
      As I understand it, the two workers were injured because the truck yanked the fabric and they fell. I also was told he lost control of the vehicle and might have run one or both over. I do not know the details.

      Rule of capture applies, but it’s very hard for them to caputure shale gas, since it doesn’t travel very fast except for the areas they directly fracture. If you lease, then they can drill even closer to your home.

  5. […] collect my thoughts) but I was happy that they gave us a spot on the 11 o’clock news and That Cindy Kalbach from Gaines got a chance to meet with them as well. It is nice to see that the new blog is getting […]

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