When we began work on the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project several years ago, unconventional gas exploration— now commonly, if somewhat inaccurately, referred to as “fracking”—was neither well known nor understood in the region. As time has passed, and the supposed advantages and disadvantages of drilling for natural gas have been exposed more widely for public scrutiny, people today are much more likely to have an opinion, one way or another, about “fracking.”
We wanted to do a couple of things with this second round of the project.
First, to return to stories and narratives that we had been following in the first round, to see how—if at all—things had changed. To that end, we have returned to some familiar places and people in Pennsylvania to follow up on what we had found there several years ago. And second, to expand our purview, to take in stories of gas exploration that have been developing outside of our original geographic focus, where “fracking” was newly arrived.
In addition, we have teamed up with photographer and filmmaker Joe Seamans, and the mapping experts FracTracker Alliance, to create dynamic and interactive presentations that help contextualize the work.
The Marcellus Shale Documentary Project: An Expanded View is on view at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts through July 31st.
Organized by The Documentary Works, the exhibition features new photography and video works by Noah Addis, Nina Berman, Brian Cohen, Scott Goldsmith, Lynn Johnson, Martha Rial, and Joe Seamans, and graphics by FracTracker Alliance. The artists will present talks this Thursday night at 6 p.m. at PCA.
Janet Muffet stands on Jan Pierce’s property, adjacent to the Muffet farm. Formerly a mix of woods and meadows that was used for farming and as riding trails, this land was cleared in 2015 in preparation for “fracking.” There has been no further activity, and none of the neighbors has been able to make contact with the gas company to learn when, if at all, they will return. The assumption is that the project was put on hold when the price of gas fell in 2016.
By machine or by hand, by chemical or forge—this is the fundamental question in Amish country—can these two ways of life co-exist? How much industry is too much?
Rook Station opened in 1904 and in recent years only saw a few trains a week until the natural gas boom transformed the rail yard. Rook Rail Yard was originally part of the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway and is now owned by Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.
Tanker cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas sit on the trestle over Interstate 376 west waiting to enter the Rook Rail. Construction on the trestle over the Whiskey Run viaduct was completed in 1904.
Hydrocarbons from the Zick Compressor station, photographed with an FLIR and a normal digital camera, Kingsley, PA, 2015, showing emissions invisible to the naked eye.
The plant’s coal-fired boilers were taken off line in 2011 and the facility was completely closed in 2015. The site is being considered for a new ethane cracker plant. The processing plant would take ethane from the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations and convert it into ethylene, which is used in the petrochemical industry.
Wells are being drilled across the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to extract gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale, rock formations that extend throughout much of the Appalachian Basin. Gas companies are using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which involves pumping fluid into wells at high pressure in order to fracture the rock formation and release the gas.