"Deeply personal, sometimes moving, sometimes funny, The End of Country lays out the promises and the perils faced not just by the people of one small Pennsylvania town but by our whole nation." - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, in the rocky, remote northeastern corner of the state, is a community of stoic, low-income dairy farmers-many of them third- and fourth-generation-and homesteaders seeking a haven from suburban sprawl. But it's also home to one of the richest natural gas deposits the world has ever known. The Marcellus shale is worth more than one trillion dollars, with enough gas to fuel every home in America for a generation.
The End of Country is the compelling story about the battle for control that ensued after the discovery of the Marcellus gas deposits, a conflict pitting the forces of corporate America against a band of locals determined to extract their fair share of the windfall-but not at the cost of their values or their way of life. Many couldn't resist the offer to lease their land in exchange for the promise of untold riches.
For years, this part of the world was invisible to all but the farmers, urban transplants, and small landholders who called it home. But journalist Seamus McGraw, a native of the region whose own mother was one of the first to receive a leasing offer, opens a window on a stiff-necked group of Pennsylvanians as they try, with little guidance or protection from the state or anyone else, to balance the promise and the peril of this discovery. Along the way, McGraw introduces us to a host of colorful characters, from a gas company land agent with a Green Beret to a wizened quarryman with an old coonhound, a .22 rifle, and an unerring sense of right and wrong who leads a personal crusade to police the gas company's operations.
The cutthroat dash by petrodollar billionaires to secure drilling leases will make some poor residents rich, and put the entire community at risk of having its land tainted by toxic chemicals and its water supply contaminated by gas. Above all, it will test the character of everyone in the community as they fight against the end of country. Rich with a sense of place and populated by unforgettable personalities, The End of Country is a tale of greed, hubris, and envy, but also of hope and family and the land that binds them all together.
"The End of Country" is an elegantly written and unsettling account of what can happen when big energy companies come calling in rural America. This cautionary tale should be required reading for all those tempted by the calling cards of easy money and precarious peace of mind. The result too often is bitter feuds, broken dreams, a shattered landscape." - Tom Brokaw
"This is an environmental tale on the surface, yet something more powerful lurks beneath the soil of this wonderful book. Seamus McGraw is really writing about the enduring complexities and contradictions of the United States. He goes beyond the easy stereotypes of greedy promoters preying on farmers and gives us the unvarnished truth about a twenty-first-century energy rush in a place we never expected it. This is tale told with heart, gusto, close observation, and sly humor-truly a remarkable memoir." - Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone and Uranium
"Part memoir, part investigative report about what happened when the natural-gas industry arrived in rural northeastern Pennsylvania in 2007.
In his debut, freelance writer McGraw constructs the narrative around land owned by his widowed mother, his sister and himself, as well as by neighbors atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation stretching for hundreds of miles in all directions. Natural-gas reserves embedded in deep rock could be extracted with a technology generally known as fracking. But the technology spoils the land, at least temporarily, disturbs the peace and alters daily life forever. On the other hand, the natural-gas exploration companies were willing to pay lots of money for drilling rights. Listening to competing offers, McGraw's bewildered mother learned she might receive as much as $250,000 up front, with the possibility of millions in royalties much later, depending on the success of the drilling. The author's mother involved him and his banker sister in the difficult decision making, turning portions of the book into a compelling, sometimes humorous family chronicle. McGraw also conducted interviews with residents inclined to accept the money, residents inclined to reject the money, natural-gas executives, environmental regulators within government and elected representatives. The author mines all of the story's dimensions equally well-environmental, moral and family. After the McGraw family decided to accept money from one of the exploration companies, the family members remained relatively cohesive. Other families, however, began to fray because of the dilemmas.
An unusual-and successful-marriage of memoir and investigative journalism." - Kirkus' Review (reviewed on May 1, 2011)
Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia.
"In 2006, in a hardscrabble part of Pennsylvania that had long lost its allure as a farming and industrial area, geologists began investigating the Marcellus Shale. It turned out to be the richest deposit of natural gas ever discovered anywhere. When his widowed mother was approached about permitting natural-gas exploration on their farm, journalist McGraw had to weigh their need for money against the future prospects of the farmland. Chronicling the impact of the find on his mother and her neighbors, McGraw's research led to this impressively detailed, highly engaging look at issues of energy policy, economics, and sociology that arose when a bucolic town was suddenly faced with the "traveling circus" of energy exploration. McGraw presents a rich history of the economics and geopolitics of energy as well as a fascinating cast of characters, including Victoria, the newcomer environmentalist and former teacher who signed on early and later had regrets; Ken, a cranky hermit skeptical of all parties who later joined ranks with his neighbors to stand up to the oil companies; and Pennsylvania native son Marshall, the sincere young man who signed the locals to leases but worried about the ultimate impact on the community as poor people suddenly found themselves rich. A completely engaging look at how energy policy affected a quiet,rural town." - Vanessa Bush, Booklist Review - Issue: May 15, 2011
Seamus McGraw is a full-time writer who has seen his work published in Playboy, Reader's Digest, Penthouse, Radar, Spin, and The Forward. He has received the Freedom of Information Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors, as well as honors from the Casey Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalists. McGraw is currently working on a documentary trailer about his family's experiences with the Marcellus shale. He grew up pitching hay and spreading manure on the same fields the gas companies are now prospecting. He still lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife and four children.