Scott Ely has lived his entire life in the rural area of Susquehanna County that has made Cabot Oil and Gas one of the most successful drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. The region surrounding the town of Dimock is what’s known as the “sweet spot,” breaking records with gushing shale gas wells and spurring an upswing in interstate pipeline construction.
But since the dawn of the state’s shale gas boom, the company’s presence in the community has been factious. And the highly publicized issues over water contamination helped create the modern-day anti-fracking movement.
Scott Ely, along with his wife Monica Marta-Ely and their tenants Ray and Victoria Hubert, are two of about a dozen families along Carter Road that have been engaged in an often hostile and bitter battle with one of the state’s largest drillers since 2009. The Elys and the Huberts are the only residents left in a lawsuit that has been slowly making its way through the court system for six years. The rest of the families settled with Cabot Oil and Gas and signed non-disclosure agreements.
Ely is the lead plaintiff in the case and also the first witness to take the stand Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Scranton before a jury of five women and five men with U.S. District Chief Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson presiding. Before any testimony could begin, however, attorneys for Cabot complained that the anti-drilling activist Craig Stevens was “walking around outside with a bottle of brown water.” This led Judge Carlson to ban all “turbid water containers” from the courthouse.
Ely did, however, get to describe his current well water to the jury. “Brown,” he said, “brown and full of gas.”