Gas battle gets personal
April 5, 2011 —
“This has to stop,” said local filmmaker Josh Fox, whose highly publicized efforts to enhance awareness of the impacts of natural gas extraction have drawn the attention of detractors, increasing character attacks and escalating incidents of vandalism at his family property in Milanville.
While Fox’s award-winning film, “Gasland,” has earned support nationwide, it has gained some focused opposition closer to home, where leases have multiplied across areas overlying the Marcellus Shale. The Fox property lies within the heavily leased Wayne County.
Sometime late last year, an old trailer at the property on John Davis Road was torched. According to PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesman Mark Carmon, DEP issued a Notice of Violation to Josh’s father, Michael, who owns the property, after receiving a complaint from the township related to the burning, only to learn eventually that the fire was set by someone other than the Fox family.
The fire was recently ruled arson, according to an investigation led by state police fire marshal trooper Russell Andress. “This is an ongoing criminal investigation,” said Andress. “The Fox family is listed as victims on my reports, and there is no evidence to suggest that they have any involvement in this crime.”
Meanwhile, an email communication later provided to The River Reporter was sent to members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance (NWPOA) from executive director Marian Schweighofer in which she crafts a “bedtime story” about the incidents related to the Fox property and calls Josh “Liar Fox.” The message contains attachments including a map of the Fox property, photos of the burned trailer and notices of violation from the township and DEP.
“We have been working on getting the facts for you,” Schweighofer wrote to fellow members of NWPOA. Part of that effort included obtaining those photos from Damascus Township Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Ed Lagarenne. “I don’t know how, but somebody from NWPOA found out about the photos and came in to request them,” he said. “They’re available to the public.”
Lagarenne, who said he took the photos, added, “You can see it from the road. I could see junk around. That gives me the right to enter the property if I see something that is a violation. I go after things like this all the time.”
Lagarenne also sent the photos to DEP “to clear the township.” “I call them on a fairly regular basis,” he said. “As a CEO, I’m obligated to report violations to DEP, FEMA, the state police.” No fines have been imposed yet.