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Fracking the Amish

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Fracking the AmishIn a community that shuns technology and conflict, the intrusion of gas wells shatters tranquility and brings unexpected schisms

A bleak December sky hangs low over rural Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Here, in areas populated by large Amish families, open fields roll toward the horizon uninterrupted by electrical wires and telephone poles. Stepping from a car that seems grossly out of place in this 19th century landscape, Carrie Hahn, a newcomer to the area, takes a deep breath of mud and cow outside an Amish farmhouse.

Suddenly, like an apparition, Andy Miller appears on a flagstone path, his face hidden beneath beard and broad-brimmed hat. He quickly ushers us inside a large, unfurnished mudroom to escape the wind.

Miller, who is in his late 40s and has nine children, is a leading member of the Old Order Amish, who eschew all modern conveniences. (Like all the Amish names in this story, Miller’s has been changed at his request, to respect Amish traditions and preserve his anonymity.)

Standing against a western window, a silhouette of felt hat, bushy sideburns, and stiff cotton work clothes, he explains how he came to be in the uncomfortable position in which he finds himself today: dealing with multibillion-dollar energy companies that use high-tech methods to shatter the earth and release mile-deep pockets of natural gas.

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