Personal Narrative: Rose Friend
Since the early 1900s, Rose Friend’s ancestral home has sat proudly in Marianna, Pennsylvania. Even as the surrounding landscape has changed in the more than 100 years since the house was built, the home has remained a steadfast structure and a hub for family gatherings. Looking at it up close, you would never know the damage done to the surrounding property—a fact Rose and her daughter Karen LeBlanc know only too well—or the health threat that lies just across the road from Rose’s home.
Rose’s house is situated just east of the towns of Amity and Prosperity, which were featured in Eliza Griswold’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. Surrounding the home is a region rich with history—from Indigenous American tales of the Monongahela Culture to the nation’s first federally funded road, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. The region also experienced the impacts of a coal mining boom and bust, and more recently it saw an influx of shale gas facilities.
Rose, a retired teacher, was born in her Marianna home, the youngest of twelve children to her mother and father, Celeste and Abraham Phillips. Abraham was a carpenter who built additions onto the family home with his bare hands in the early 1900s.
Rose (bottom right) with her siblings and parents, Celeste and Abraham Phillips
Surrounding the farmhouse with its high baseboards, intricate wood flooring, and thoughtful details are acres of fields, which Rose’s family plowed for years by horse. Rose speaks of following the plows and picking up uncovered arrowheads, which the family has kept, further verifying the area’s storied past.
She remembers the fields directly across from the family home, where Osage orange trees—ones that had been established before the family arrived—and hedges protected the home from harsh sunlight and blustering winds that swept across the fields.
Though Rose moved when she married, the home stayed in the family, and just a few years ago she returned.
“When my husband passed away, I lived in his house but didn’t own it, so about four or five years ago, I asked myself what I was doing living in that house when I have my own house. So, I moved back here. I made the big circle. I was born here and I’m back here now, and I’ll stay here.” Rose Friend
The family’s 100th Christmas celebration in front of their ancestral home
The home has held hundreds of get-togethers over the years, at one point regularly hosting 80-90 family members for holiday parties. Particularly during the last two years, these celebrations have become a bit quieter; more recently, Rose was joined by about 20 people. This year, she and her remaining siblings—two sisters—shared a sentimental visit in the family home.
“This is home to them. To me, and to them. This isn’t a home. It’s home. It’s everyone’s home.” Rose Friend
As their family celebrations and get-togethers have changed, so has the property surrounding the home. Numerous well pads, compressor stations, and other shale gas facilities now freckle Marianna’s landscape and the surrounding area.
The Hunter well pad in Marianna. The red roof of Rose’s house is visible behind the access road to the left of the pad.
Not only do these facilities disrupt the rolling fields that lie between Marianna’s lush woods, but they disrupt the lives of nearby residents with property and road damage and with noise, light, and air pollution that has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health conditions.
Studies show that those living, working, and going to school near both active and inactive shale gas facilities are more likely to experience asthma and other respiratory issues, heightened fetal health risks, heart-related hospitalizations, and stress-induced health impacts. Beyond these physical impacts, studies also show greater impacts on mental health when particulate levels in the air are high.
While toxic pollutants from shale gas wells have been detected up to six miles (31,680 feet) from the wells, current regulations allow facilities to be as close as 300-500 feet from schools, childcare centers, homes, and other occupied dwellings. For Rose, the nearest shale gas facility is right across the street.
“They come in, they take the best part of your land, and they build on it. And they do not care. That’s the impression that I get. They do not care.” Rose Friend
Early development of the Hunter well pad, as seen from its adjacent manifold pad
The Hunter well pad was developed in 2018 by local shale gas producer EQT. It is one of many shale gas facilities EQT operates within Marianna’s two square miles. The development of the Hunter pad and its adjacent manifold pad severely disturbed Rose’s property. Nearly all of the century-old Osage orange trees are gone (as are the hedges), and the land has been cleared and its topography morphed. An access road—the second of two created for the pad—has been built directly across from Rose’s home, which regularly carries heavy truck traffic. Despite these impacts to Rose’s property, Rose and EQT have no shared comprehensive contract outlining the extent of this work.
“Mom still has not been paid for [all] they’ve done over there. They’ve done small contracts with her, like with the recirculating tanks. They paid to have those on her property for a little while. You get these tiny little subcontracts all over the place, but it comes down to they’ve torn everything up and inconvenienced her. We’re talking the dust, the trucks… They come in 10 at a time, load up with [wastewater], then the next round comes in. All day long.” Karen LeBlanc
The initial path of the first of two access roads created for the Hunter pad
Rose’s ancestral home peeking over the access road to the Hunter and manifold pads
Rose’s home and her view across the street
Rose and her daughter Karen are not opposed to shale gas development, nor to the contractors EQT hired. They are, however, devastated by the property damage they have experienced and the limited communication EQT provided.
“I’m not against drilling, but don’t come out to the farms, take the best land, and say you have a right to it.” Rose Friend
“I actually like [the subcontractors]. It’s not their fault. They’re doing what they’re told to do. They’re good people… But the gas gods, EQT, they want the best, easiest way for them, rather than working with a landowner.” Karen LeBlanc
Rose surveying her property during the early development of the Hunter pad
“This was a very hard day for Mom. She was heartbroken, looking at what they were doing to her land, and with no agreement other than the Atlas [Energy] agreement from 2007 [that EQT acquired].” Karen LeBlanc
Throughout the development of the Hunter pad, Rose experienced numerous incidents of damage to her home and property and many inconveniences. She and Karen also experienced stress and frustration during their attempts to communicate with EQT.
“Is there an emotional impact? Absolutely. She’s watching her childhood, the farmland, being torn to shreds… For me, I have a full-time job and I have the second full-time job of dealing with EQT.” Karen LeBlanc
Stress is a significant issue for many of those living near shale gas facilities. Shale gas wells and compressor stations produce noise at levels that may increase the risk of adverse health effects, including sleep disturbance and cardiovascular disease. Further, constant noise pollution from shale gas operations can cause nearby residents to more frequently experience anger, anxiety, and distraction, which can impact relationships, work, and more. Chronic noise exposure is also linked to elevated blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, birth complications, and cognitive impairment in children.
Beyond noise and light pollution is the stress of going toe-to-toe with the industry itself in order to defend one’s home, property, and health—something with which Karen is very familiar.
Rose temporarily lost gas service to her home when her original gas line was inadvertently destroyed during the development of the pad.
“Mom called me, and said, ‘Karen, I was in the middle of cooking supper and now I have no gas.’ They found they had run over her gas line with a bulldozer and had left it open all night long leaking gas. And they actually brought her breakfast the next morning, they paid for her to go out and get dinner that night, but they didn’t fix it. So, I got up in the wee hours on Saturday… and I pulled my car sideways across the access road, and when they showed up for work, I said, ‘Not today…’ EQT called Columbia Gas and paid them to come in and fix the line.” Karen LeBlanc
In another event, heavy truck traffic blocked Rose from leaving her home for serious medical treatment.
From Rose’s sidewalk, a view of workers’ cars during the development of the Hunter pad
In yet another event, Rose experienced extensive damage to her bedroom ceiling during a wind storm. The protection once offered from the Osage orange trees and hedges across the street from Rose’s house is no more. The majority of the trees and hedges were removed to make room for truck traffic and presumably to provide more visibility for trucks exiting the Hunter pad.
Osage orange trees, more than a century old, removed for truck access
Osage orange tree limbs and roots
“I looked out my window and some of the trees were already mowed down, and they were working on others.” Rose Friend
The list of frustrations and damages goes on. Rose and Karen were told that a layer of topsoil would be removed from one area of their property. When Karen inspected that area, the removed layer was more than twelve feet deep in some spots.
Removed “topsoil” from Rose’s property.
Rose’s family previously harvested corn and hay from their fields. Now, Rose fears agriculture is an impossibility.
“They wanted to build a compressor station on a really nice piece of my land. They told me my land was already cleared and it would be the perfect spot for it. I told them, yes, our land was already cleared, but so that we can get hay and what we need from it.” Rose Friend
Though the compressor station proposed for Rose’s property never came to fruition, there were other changes made to her land without her permission, and without notice.
“One day I went outside and saw stakes in the ground, and asked them what they were for. They told me they were cutting away my property for their truck traffic. They didn’t ask for permission.” Rose Friend
Property disruption during the Hunter pad development
In Rose’s experience with the industry, non-cooperation seemed to be the theme. Neighboring Washington County resident Wesley Silva and Warren County resident Siri Lawson voiced similar experiences in their attempts to protect themselves and their neighbors from the property and health damages associated with shale gas development.
The most notable deceptions are the lack of monetary compensation to Rose and her family and the property destruction they have been left with now that the development of the site is complete.
“They said, ‘Oh, we’ll pay this much for it,’ and then they decided it was over with and they didn’t have to pay that, and they changed that original figure to about a fifth of what it was. I just wish they would come back and finish, and not say, ‘It’s your problem’ after all of this.” Rose Friend
Throughout the development of the Hunter well pad, Karen often intervened in defense of her mother and their family’s ancestral home and property. She continues to do so, and she encourages others in similar situations to take action.
“There are things people can do. It doesn’t necessarily take an attorney. [A lot of it] is about knowing what questions to ask and when. You can stop them. You can catch them in lies. You can stand your ground. You've got to stand your ground. With that said, standing your ground can cost you.” Karen LeBlanc
Karen was able to demand temporary stoppages of work to repair Rose’s original gas line. She was also able to stop the removal of specific trees and land and to confirm a contract with EQT to protect specific areas of the family’s land from additional tree removal. Additionally, Karen successfully fought to have the original access road for the Hunter and manifold pads moved. Though the development of the Hunter pad is now complete, Karen continues to work toward securing a just resolution to Rose’s situation with EQT.
“Here’s the difference: When you’re fighting for yourself, it’s one thing. But when you’re protecting your mother, your children, your grandchildren, that’s a totally different ball of wax, and I will fight until the end for them. So that’s where your strength comes in, is family. Especially when you have a family like mine.” Karen LeBlanc
To learn more about how you can better protect yourself and your loved ones from the impacts of shale gas development, visit environmentalhealthproject.org or contact the Environmental Health Project at firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 260-5504.
Have you or someone you know been impacted by oil and gas development, and would you like to share your story? Contact us at email@example.com.