Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction In Amity and Prosperity, the prizewinning poet and journalist Eliza Griswold tells the story of the energy boom's impact on a small town at the edge of Appalachia and one woman's transformation from a struggling single parent to an unlikely activist. Stacey Haney is a local nurse working hard to raise two kids and keep up her small farm when the fracking boom comes to her hometown of Amity, Pennsylvania. Intrigued by reports of lucrative natural gas leases in her neighbors' mailboxes, she strikes a deal with a Texas-based energy company. Soon trucks begin rumbling past her small farm, a fenced-off drill site rises on an adjacent hilltop, and domestic animals and pets start to die. When mysterious sicknesses begin to afflict her children, she appeals to the company for help. Its representatives insist that nothing is wrong. Alarmed by her children's illnesses, Haney joins with neighbors and a committed husband-and-wife legal team to investigate what's really in the water and air. Against local opposition, Haney and her allies doggedly pursue their case in court and begin to expose the damage that's being done to the land her family has lived on for centuries. Soon a community that has long been suspicious of outsiders faces wrenching new questions about who is responsible for their fate, and for redressingit: The faceless corporations that are poisoning the land? The environmentalists who fail to see their economic distress? A federal government that is mandated to protect but fails on the job? Drawing on seven years of immersive reporting, Griswold reveals what happens when an imperiled town faces a crisis of values, and a family wagers everything on an improbable quest for justice.
I enjoyed the writing of this one more than Beyond the Beautiful Forevers and Evicted, both books that have won the Pulitzer in the past couple years. I like that Griswold talks some about her relationship with the story and how she sees the families change over the years.
This centers on a few families in Amity, a woman, divorced mother of two, who owns her own property, but could use additional money for improvements. What she didn't bargain for is what happens to the health of her family, the animals in her care, and the struggle she will have trying to get justice. Admit to disillusionment when I learned Obama allowed fracking to go on, but not surprised to learn Trump removed many of the EPA safeguards. An odd to the legal team of husband and wife and the way they fought a system that at every turn was firmly against them. A fine piece of investigative reporting. The audio book narrated by Tavia Gilbert who did a fantastic job.
What a book! Eliza Griswold tells the story in a straightforward manner. She has documentation listed so you can check it out for more details. She did a through job in telling the story of how a town takes sides.
I felt so bad for Stacey and her family and her neighbors, the Voyles, as they fight for their rights for clean water and air. Looking back on everything it started with the death of their animals and Stacey's son, Harley, illnesses. Stacey is constantly taking Harley to the hospitals in Washington, PA, and Pittsburgh. Stacey starts keeping records of taking Harley and smells in the air and things that aren't right with their water and problems in the house. Beth Voyles does the same. They call the EPA and DEP but, while they pay lip service, nothing is done. Oh, Range, eventually does get fined, the fines are so small compared to how much they are making from fracking.
I was appalled by how Range Resources got away with destroying the environment and can walk away. I also was angry by how the taxpayers of Pennsylvania will end up footing the cost of Range doing business--repaving roads, cleaning up and reclaiming drilling sites (even though Range is supposed to put everything back as it was when they finish), medical costs for those sickened (if they don't have insurance.)
Eventually Stacey and Beth hire attorneys, the Smiths, to have Range admit negligence and give them clean water and stop fracking above their homes. Stacey has to move from her home it is so bad. Beth stays but develops severe health problems. Their children are impacted negatively with physical and emotional illnesses. For years the lawsuits continue. I was disgusted by how DEP acted towards the Haneys and Voyles, how they sided with Range Resources. They were to protect the public, not big business.
I was shocked how Range tried to find out who was paying the Smiths. I could not believe the accusations Range made against charitable organizations and environmentalist organizations in the region. The Smiths basically were doing this pro bono with payment if a settlement was achieved. I liked how they were crusaders, going after the Commonwealth when Act 13 was passed to ensure that the public was put first and not gas and oil companies.
I was saddened about how Amity was split. It seemed that those who were paid large sums by Range did not believe Stacey, who had grown up with them. It seemed that once the money started rolling in, many forgot how a small town worked--they all helped one another and supported one another. That seemed to end the longer the lawsuits dragged on.
It was a shame that the lawsuits never went to trial. Settlement was made with gag orders in place about it. I think a jury would have found for Stacey and Beth but I can understand the stress of living with something this big hanging over their heads, how it wore them down and took over their lives.
I hope that Stacey and her family and Beth and her family are followed over the years. I want to know what happens to them--how their health and lives are affected from the chemicals they breathed and drank.
I agree with Harley. The money (all of it) was blood money. His life was ruined and he could not get back what he lost--his health, his ambitions, his dreams. They were all gone. He moved on but he has a different outlook. He has matured fast and knows the agencies put in place to aid the public don't. His innocence was lost. His is right. Greed won.