DRIVING WEST ALONG the Pennsylvania Turnpike from Harrisburg to rural Washington County, sign after sign pitted energy companies against environmentalists. An evil-looking clown leered down at passing drivers above the words: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” Then there was another: “Wind dies. Sun sets. You need reliable, affordable, clean coal electricity.” Yet another featured a picture of Yoko Ono and the message “Would you take energy advice from the woman who broke up The Beatles?”
The billboards were the handiwork of a corporate lobbyist named Rick Berman. His campaign depicted anti-fracking activists, who often called themselves fractivists, as a bunch of rich outsiders. In his world, hypocrites like Robert Redford, who flew private, and kooks like Yoko Ono didn’t understand the give-and-take long established in Appalachia between extractive industries and the communities that relied on them for their livelihoods.
If you followed the highway far enough, turned off the exit for Lone Pine/ Amity, then took a right past the truck stop, you’d wend your way into a steep, unnamed valley. Loren “Buzz” Kiskadden lived at the base of that valley, in a spot known locally as the Bottoms, or Dogpatch. On its 26 acres, the Kiskadden family had run a junkyard from the mid-60s until 2006. An ex-car-thief and recovering heroin addict, Buzz had been the neighborhood bad boy, “always driving around on something,” he told me later.
Buzz was clean now, but chain-smoking cigarettes. He and his brothers were known to drive their junkyard’s tow trucks around the town of Washington, the county seat, removing any breakdowns left on the roadside. Instead of repairing them, they stripped them for parts.
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