Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

by Eliza Griswold
Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

by Eliza Griswold


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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 redressing it: 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250215079
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 270,126
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Eliza Griswold is the author of The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, which won the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her translations of Afghan women’s folk poems, I Am the Beggar of the World, was awarded the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She has held fellowships from the New America Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and Harvard University, and in 2010
the American Academy in Rome awarded her the Rome Prize for her poems. Currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, she lives in New York with her husband and son.

Table of Contents

Maps xiv

A Note 3

Prologue 7

Part I Hoopies

1 Fair 2010 11

2 When the Boom Began 18

3 The Mess Next Door 29

4 Arsenip 37

5 Airborne 46

6 Hoopies 55

7 "One Head & One Heart, & Live in True Friendship & Amity as One People" 62

8 Doubters 68

9 Hang 'Em High 78

10 Blood and Urine 85

11 Airport 97

Part II Burden of Proof

12 "Mr. and Mrs. Atticus Finch" 105

13 Mutual Distrust 123

14 Buzz 131

15 Missing Pages 136

16 Rainbow Water 142

17 "Dear Mr. President" 148

18 Insurgents 155

19 Burden of Proof 159

20 Policing the State 165

21 What Money Does 174

22 Ruin is the Destination toward Which All Men Rush 193

23 Remote People 200

24 Ignorant Motherfuckers 208

25 A Special Agent 219

26 Full Metal Jacket 225

Part III The Right to Clean Air and Pure Water

27 The Right to Clean Air and Pure Water 235

28 Dreams 243

29 Closing Down the Ponds 248

30 Chasing Ghosts 259

31 "The Junkyard Plaintiff" 266

32 Diva 270

33 Fair 2016 278

Epilogue: White Hats 289

Postscript 301

A Note on Sources 307

Notes 309

Acknowledgments 317

Reading Group Guide

1. Washington County was particularly vulnerable to the fracking industry because of poverty. What is at the heart of that poverty? Why isn’t it possible for the area to provide a good livelihood in America anymore?

2. In chapter 2, “When the Boom Began,” Stacey signs a contract with Range Resources granting her the lowest possible royalty rate allowed by law (12.5%), minus a variety of Range expenses. If you had been in her situation, would you have signed the contract?

3. How are Harley’s physical health and emotional health intertwined? What accounts for the differences between the way he and his sister, Paige, experience their symptoms?

4. Chapter 19, “Policing the State,” describes the history of ACT 13, the Pennsylvania law that quashed local governments’ ability to regulate oil and gas operators. The law also required physicians to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to learn which chemicals had sickened their patients. As you read about the ensuing legal battle, culminating in key provisions of ACT 13 being declared unconstitutional, where did you place the blame for Stacey’s situation? Are voters the solution or the problem?

5. How does Pappy’s family history affect Stacey? What does the history of the region (particularly William Penn’s “holy experiment” and the eventual brutality between Native Americans and Scots Irish immigrants) teach us about the current power struggles between industry, government, and rebels?

6. Hang ‘em High meetings were attended by an odd combination of Pennsylvanians who were united in the fight against Range Resources but disagreed about how and why. How did Stacey cope with the political contradictions in her community? Why would a conservationist reject environmentalists? Why aren’t scientists more politically empowered?

7. Access to clean water has always been a sign of freedom to Stacey, and her turn to water buffalos represented defeat. Is access to clean water a human right, or is clean water better understood as a commodity that might be bought?

8. The healthcare industry provided Stacey with a middle-class wage and is one of the few steady employers in her region. Yet she struggled to pay for the thousands of dollars in medical tests required for herself and her family. What does that say about the economics of illness in America?

9. Discuss the book’s title. What would it take to bring amity and prosperity to Washington County?

10. Stacey hoped for a settlement, but Harley was opposed to it. Would you have accepted a settlement?

11. What accounts for the tenacity of lawyers like the Smiths (who were willing to pursue cases against Range for years on a shoestring budget) and plaintiffs like Stacey? What keeps them from being easily intimidated or succumbing to despair?

12. Ron Yeager obtained a pre-drill test, but Buzz, Stacey, and the Voyleses didn’t. If you were on a jury, what proof would you need of his water in order to be convinced about the cause of the contamination? If the liner of a drill cuttings pit or a waste pond is shown to be leaking, should that be sufficient evidence that the pit or pond is the source of toxins?

13. As you read about the suffering of Stacey’s animals (including the offspring of Boots and Diva), along with the tragic contamination of springs that flow from the Ten Mile Creek Watershed, how did the book shape your view of the natural world? How much responsibility do we have to protect the planet and its creatures, beyond what’s necessary for our own survival?

14. What did you discover about the way the energy industry weighs risk versus rewards? What would your life look like if humans stopped extracting minerals from the earth?

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