Understanding Gas Shale Country

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The neighbors thought of their land differently. But they found a common purpose in opposing gas shale development in Susquehanna County.


Seamus McGraw’s The End of Country details the conditions that drew the gas industry to the Endless Mountains, and the situation the locals were in when the industry arrived. 

It all starts when McGraw, a writer for Playboy magazine, has to make a decision with his sister about leasing their mother’s land — and their childhood home — to the gas companies. McGraw’s attempt to figure out what is best for his family drives the story. 

McGraw contextualizes this question in the destructive history of the nearby anthracite coal region. Mine waste from the underground mines still lies on the surface and many streams and creeks are polluted. 

He also presents another serious backdrop to the financial draw of leasing ancestral land in Northeast Pennsylvania to the gas drillers: the failure and decay of the local farm economy and the need for something to replace it.

Throughout the book, McGraw travels from his own state of mind and into the heads of Susquehanna County residents, gas company landmen, scientists and even 19th century villagers. He offers insight into how these different actors deal with the industry’s rush to lease as much land as possible in the region. 

Pennsylvania From Below, a grassroots journalism publication based in Pennsylvania.