STARRED REVIEW
June 2018

Under the wheels of “progress”

By Eliza Griswold

The grim story Eliza Griswold tells in Amity and Prosperity will seem familiar to readers who know the tale of New York’s Love Canal or have read Jonathan Harr’s prize-winning book A Civil Action. Griswold’s penetrating story explores the consequences of our nation’s ill-advised zeal for exploiting abundant natural resources and features rapacious corporations, inept—if not complicit—regulators and hapless victims in a small Pennsylvania town. Hapless, that is, until they hire an unlikely husband-and-wife legal team to help them seek justice.

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The grim story Eliza Griswold tells in Amity and Prosperity will seem familiar to readers who know the tale of New York’s Love Canal or have read Jonathan Harr’s prize-winning book A Civil Action. Griswold’s penetrating story explores the consequences of our nation’s ill-advised zeal for exploiting abundant natural resources and features rapacious corporations, inept—if not complicit—regulators and hapless victims in a small Pennsylvania town. Hapless, that is, until they hire an unlikely husband-and-wife legal team to help them seek justice.

Most of the action unfolds in and around the small town of Amity in southwestern Pennsylvania. Beginning in 2010, Griswold made 37 trips to the region to report the story, and she focuses her careful investigation on nurse Stacey Haney and her two children. The Haneys’ farmhouse is located downhill from a pond containing waste products from the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is used to extract natural gas from the underlying shale deposit.

The Haneys’ worsening financial and health problems eventually drive them to lawyers John and Kendra Smith, partners in a small, local law firm. Though the Smiths’ dogged efforts in the face of fierce resistance from gas producer Range Resources and other defendants yielded only mixed results for the Haneys and their neighbors, they were able to creatively invoke Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment, successfully using it for the first time in an action against polluters.

Griswold’s sobering book is yet one more in a growing roster of works that detail the price some members of American society have been forced to pay to serve the convenience and comfort of their fellow citizens.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Amity and Prosperity

Amity and Prosperity

By Eliza Griswold
FSG
ISBN 9780374103118

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