MDN editor Jim Willis received an excited phone call from Susquehanna County, PA resident Janice Gavern after being pointed in our direction by Cabot Oil & Gas. Janice, who runs a goat farm with her daughter near Montrose, PA (and a cancer survivor) started a project a few years back to document the drilling of a shale well on her friend’s property. As Janice says, after she visited the site, just to “keep an eye on things” and snapped her first picture, she was hooked. And the rest, including some 8,000 pictures taken with Janice’s little digital camera, is history. At least that’s what Janice hopes.
Janice’s aim in doing a photo documentary of the drilling process is to preserve an important bit of Susquehanna County history, for future generations. Janice has selected 650 of the 8,000 pictures and compiled them into an e-book on Amazon–the first e-book of a series she’s planning. The first batch cover site preparation and building the well pad–up to the point when the drill arrives. She’s done a fabulous job, and we’re happy to help her make it known to the world. In fact, although the e-book normally retails for $9.99, you can order it FREE today and then again on Feb. 1. We recommend you head on over and download it right now. Here’s a bit more of Janice’s story as told by the Scranton Times-Tribune…
In April 2010, Susquehanna County landowner Janice Gavern spoke to her neighbor, who had leased her land to Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., about the well the company planned to drill on her land in Dimock Twp.
Ms. Gavern, 64, and her daughter run Arkangel Goat Farm on 3 acres in Jessup Twp. near Montrose. Ms. Gavern was at her neighbor’s house buying hay for her goats when the neighbor asked Ms. Gavern to keep an eye on the new well.
“After the first day, basically, I was hooked,” Ms. Gavern said. She ended up spending a year documenting the development of her neighbor’s land from empty field to producing well pad.
Clad in heavy boots and jeans and carrying a red golf umbrella to shield her from rain and sun, she went out to her neighbor’s land almost every day with her small digital camera, meticulously documenting the pad’s construction.
She ended up with about 8,000 photos, about 650 of which she is making available as the first installment in a series of e-books on Amazon.com under the title “Photojournal of a Pennsylvania Natural Gas Well.”
The first e-book documents Cabot’s development of access roads, the well pad and the drilling of pilot holes, which guide the large rig when it drills a deeper well. The usual price is $9.99, but she is making it available free today and again on Feb. 1. She hopes to get more downloads overall.
“I’m going to make some money at it, obviously,” she said.
She might make more from the e-book than from her gas royalties. Her land is leased to Cabot, but with such a small parcel and no drilling under her land, she doesn’t expect it to pay much.
Ms. Gavern sees her photo set as a piece of history from a firsthand observer, a primary document that will aid future understanding of this moment in the history of American energy.
“This is not a nice, neat story of the start of a gas well,” she said. “This is me with a little digital camera taking as many pictures as I can possibly take and then realizing this had historical context to it.”
She also hoped her presence as an observer would make a difference in the company’s work.
“I figured, if I couldn’t watch Cabot and feel comfortable about what they’re doing, who could?” she said. “I was nosy, and I was programmed to watch guys work.”
After growing up in South Scranton, Ms. Gavern joined the Air Force at 18 in 1967, becoming an airplane mechanic, then an explosives safety officer. “At the time, I felt that just the fact of me watching them made a difference at least to that particular site,” she said.
Cabot spokesman George Stark recalled Ms. Gavern approaching him to explain what she was doing there. “I want you to know, I’m the lady with the red umbrella,” he remembered her saying.
Mr. Stark said because Ms. Gavern had the landowner’s permission and stayed away from the pad, Cabot had no problem with her taking pictures. The company ended up buying about 20 of them to use on its website, he said.
Betty Smith, curator for the Susquehanna County Historical Society, said Ms. Gavern donated her first e-book to the society last week. It plans to keep the photos on file, she said.
“It would be useful for people who have prospective wells going on their property to know what the procedure is,” Mrs. Smith said. She also thinks it could become important for future historians interested in Susquehanna County.
“It’s impacting our county now and will in the future,” she said.*
*Scranton (PA) Times-Tribune (Jan 21, 2014) – Susquehanna County resident documents gas well in 8,000 photos over 1 year