3 charged after blocking road to drilling site in state park

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Three people were charged with disorderly conduct after a Clearfield County demonstration in which people covered a road with branches and a few sat perched in trees, temporarily shutting down a new gas drilling rig.

State police in DuBois announced the charges against Hannah Morgan, 24, of Hartland, Vt., Michael Luurtsema, 27, of Elwood, Ind., and Grace Pettygrove, 24, of Eugene, Ore., on Monday.

Forest Patrolman Jeremy Hamilton said officials suspect the protesters -- he estimated a group of 40 to 70 -- arrived at Moshannon State Forest between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday. They pulled tree branches and other fallen debris from the forest and placed them in about 30 piles along Colby and Gordon roads, which are used to access a new gas drilling rig owned by EQT Corp., police said.

Patrolman Hamilton said he did not know for sure who was behind the demonstration, but a group called Marcellus Earth First! took credit for the event on its website. The arrests occurred near the end of the day, and Patrolman Hamilton said most demonstrators left by 11 p.m. or midnight.

Organizers did not respond to phone calls or emails on Monday.

Another protester, Alex Lotorto, 25, of Pike County, said he learned about the protest when he received a phone call Sunday morning. He said he arrived about midday and saw dozens of people gathered on or near the street.

Some people came from out of state and many stayed for only a portion of the day because they had other commitments. Mr. Lotorto estimated that about 150 people attended the protest at some point throughout the day.

Two people hoisted themselves into 75-foot-tall trees. They connected themselves with cables so they would fall if someone drove across the road or cut them down, he said.

Mr. Lotorto said he joined the protest because he was angry that a drilling site had popped up in an area people normally use for fishing and other summertime activities. "That's a treasure for local people," he said.

EQT spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company resumed operations late Sunday, once the roadway was cleared from debris and it was safe to enter and exit the site.

state - marcellusshale - environment

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. The Associated Press contributed.


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