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Injunction eased so PA fracking foe can go to hospital, grocery

By David DeKok

SUNBURY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A judge on Friday loosened an injunction restricting the movements of a Pennsylvania anti-fracking activist to allow her access to her local hospital, grocery and other places declared off-limits because they sat atop land leased for gas extraction.

Until Judge Kenneth Seamans eased the terms of the injunction, Vera Scroggins, 63, of Brackney, Pennsylvania was banned from 40 percent of the land in Susquehanna County, where she lives and which is leased by Texas-based Cabot Oil & Gas Co for gas extraction.

Seamans, the sole judge in Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas in Montrose, Pennsylvania, issued a new injunction on Friday barring Scroggins from the active gas extraction operations of the company and the access roads that serve them.

The judge ruled she must not climb on the company's equipment and facilities when she shoots her anti-fracking videos, which she posts on YouTube, and conducts anti-fracking tours of the area, which she has done for actress Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.

In general, she must stay at least 100 feet away from Cabot-owned land and well pads, he ruled. The company had asked for 150 feet.

"This is a big victory for Vera Scroggins," said Scott Michelman, a lawyer with the Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington, D.C., who represents the activist. "The court recognized it was inappropriate to severely restrict an advocate's daily activities."

Scroggins had proposed a 50-foot exclusion zone, so the judge in effect split the difference.

"Cabot is satisfied by the court's decision to maintain an injunction against Ms. Scroggins," the company said in a statement.

"The court's ruling not only protects Cabot and its employees, contractors and others but it keeps landowners from being exposed to liability that could arise from Scroggins' actions," Cabot said in the statement.

Scroggins is a long-time opponent of energy drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania, especially the method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial process of injecting water, chemicals and sand into underground shale formations to extract oil and gas.

The use of fracking in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years as drillers found ways to extract more hydrocarbons from shale. The boom has transformed parts of northern Pennsylvania and divided communities drawn by the monetary rewards that energy production brings, but concerned by its impact on the environment.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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