Laurie Barr, a well-hunter and environmental activist, stands near an entry point to the Allegheny National Forest in Northwest Pennsylvania, before heading in to search for abandoned wells. Photo by Audrey Carleton.

Hunting: In search of Pennsylvania’s abandoned oil and gas wells 

By Audrey Carleton

Environmental activist Laurie Barr has spent the last 10 years treading through the Allegheny National Forest in rural Pennsylvania in search of abandoned oil and gas wells. These lost remnants of a once-powerful fossil fuel industry emit greenhouse gases like methane into the atmosphere and are at risk of leaking toxins into homes and waterways. So Barr is on a mission to stop them, but first, they have to be found. This is her story, and the story of the harm abandoned wells have been causing Pennsylvania’s communities and ecosystems for years.

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Special thanks to my editor, Kalli Anderson, and to Laurie Barr, Barbara Laxon, Ed Atwood and Bill Baxter for their generosity in time and insight. All music heard in this piece is from Blue Dot Sessions Flatlands for their song ‘Remsen.’