New Anti-Drilling Movie GASLAND Takes Aim at Hydrofacking

gaslandlogo Coming soon to an art house theater near you is… GASLAND, winner of the Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. From the GASLAND official website:

When filmmaker Josh Fox discovers that Natural Gas drilling is coming to his area—the Catskillls/Poconos region of Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, he sets off on a 24 state journey to uncover the deep consequences of the United States’ natural gas drilling boom. What he uncovers is truly shocking—water that can be lit on fire right out of the sink, chronically ill residents of drilling areas from disparate locations in the US all with the same mysterious symptoms, huge pools of toxic waste that kill cattle and vegetation well blowouts and huge gas explosions consistently covered up by state and federal regulatory agencies. These are just a few of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND.

Michael Moore, writer/producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Capitalism: A Love Story among others, has pioneered this kind of “documentary” that’s long on innuendo and short on facts, perfecting it as an art. It seems Mr. Moore has spawned imitators, including Josh Fox.

The drumbeat will only grow louder from the anti-drilling movement. Their two-pronged attack is to claim: 1) Hydraulic fracturing as a mining technique is unsafe, and 2) Your water will become contaminated with nasty chemicals and/or methane gas if there’s a drill anywhere near you. Both claims are false.

Look, no one wants people’s water to become polluted, or livestock to become ill, or water to become contaminated. Painting energy companies as the Great Satan, as films like this try to do, is simply childish and simplistic at best. There are safeguards in place. Drilling IS happening in a lot of places—with no negative consequences. We need to stay vigilant, of course. But drilling can happen safely, and it should. To ban all natural gas drilling and hydrofracking as a technique is unreasonable.

  • dontletgreedwin

    The truth is that the overall economy of rural areas will eventually be in ruin with reduced property values and increased local government costs, eg roads and emergency service, and reductions in tourism income- this is already happening in central NY, before hydrofracking has even started. Buyers are scared- and rightly so.
    A few of you will get rich, though. Feel good about it?

  • Jim

    I would remind dontletgreedwin that we still do (for now) have private property rights in the U.S. As long as the activity does not harm others, and there ARE safeguards in place with drilling to prevent such harm, landowners are free to use their asset–their land–to make a profit. It’s called capitalism, the very principal our country was founded on.

  • Wanderlust

    Jim, unfortunately people like “dontletgreedwin” apparently suffer from a postmodern cognitive dissonance that ignores the fact that the standard of living one enjoys is supported by the things they claim to stand against – and their reasons for standing against things such as hydraulic fracturing are based on hyperbole and emotion.

    The worst parasites of all are people such as Moore, who are also the worst kind of corporate rent-seekers: they claim to deplore profit motive (and the means to create and enjoy wealth) while benefitting from laws and regulations designed to promote wealth.

    They do not understand that what they are in fact doing is increasing misery – or worse, they know that increasing misery is an outcome of their diatribes but are too focused on the profits they claim to deplore to care.


  • BSouther

    I’m a native Texan, royalty owner, pro-business veteran of the oil and gas industry (mostly upstream E&P, including a company that pioneered mass fracks in the Barnett Shale.

    I watched this documentary and found it to be well-researched, straightforward and legitimate. If anyone has facts to dispute what I saw in this film, I would be very happy to learn that fracking has not caused the kind of contamination problems that this film appears to accurately portray.

    I can understand the knee-jerk instinct to shoot this down and protect a vital industry that produces essential energy supply. If this industry goes down, most of what’s around me in the Houston area will go down too. But … facts please?

    If you have a legitimate, factual response to counter this film, I and others want to hear it. When offer nothing of substance and just resort to smear tactics, it makes you look stupid and defensive. What I mean by that is, I think you look stupid and defensive. Especially stupid.

    First, this did not strike as another Michael Moore-style hatchet job. The tone was quiet and down-to-earth, not arrogant or whacko. It was written and directed by a landowner who lives in a house his father built on family land along the Delaware River. The guy definitely has an agenda, but his approach is sane and convincing. Contrary to your accusation, and completely unlike your other comments, this documentary seemed short on innuendo and long on fact.

    I also disagree with your suggestion that this film is both anti-natural gas drilling and anti-fracking. It was specifically about fracking. More precisely, it was about unregulated fracking. I should have known, but did not know that the energy bill led by Cheney exempted oil and gas drilling from the Clean Water Act. If fracking is environmentally safe and causes no harm to groundwater, then there should no fear of lifting this exemption. continue.

    I hope that it is safe and that the practice can continue. And I hope somebody smarter than you is working on a response that provides facts that genuinely disprove the premise of this film.

    But if those facts don’t exist, and fracking is actually causing the level of contamination indicated in this film, I absolutely won’t support it.

    Anybody out there with the knowledge to prove this film wrong needs to shut up, watch it and get to work on the response before it grows more momentum. The burden of proof is on the industry.

  • Mike

    Kudos, BSouther, for a valid and thoughtful response. I recently saw Gasland and was astounded by what I witnessed. I realize that any work of this nature could be tainted by bias or hyperbole in order to increase the drama level, but I find myself unable to be so dismissive. I came away from the film angry and frustrated.

    I am an environmental consultant in Pennsylvania. I work with clients such as builders and developers to design and build individual and large-scale wastewater treatment systems in areas not served by public sewer services. A colleague recently met with PADEP for a proposed residential project that proposed treating sewage effluent to near drinking water standards and proposed to dispose of the wastewater in shallow beds. This disposal technique would utilize the soils natural properties to further rennovate and dispose of the effluent. PADEP told them that they needed an EPA well injection permit.

    Yet the gas industry can inject unknown quantities of a vast array of chemical compounds DIRECTLY into the aquifer! Where is common sense here?! The answer is simple: politics. Thanks to the Cheyney/Bush energy policy, these industries are exempt from Federal regulation and requirements manadated by The Clean Streams Act and Safe Drinking water standards. Millions of gallons of water of the mixed sand and chemical concoction are required for EACH well and yet only approximately 40% of the fluid is recovered. Do you have to be a hydrogeologist to wonder where the remaining balance ends up?

    The process requires millions of gallons of fresh, clean water that is being pumped from local streams or groundwater aquifers. After the fracking process, millions of gallons of wastewater is generated and requires proper disposal. Anyone that thinks that none of this wastewater is simply dumped back into streams or onto the ground down some dark, lonely road just fell off the turnip truck. At best, the water returned is warmer, sediment laden, and potentially full of chemical compounds. Decades of work to protect our waterways could be undone in mere minutes.

    I recognize the need for energy independence and I would support this practice more freely if I knew there were regulations in place to protect groundwater and surface water. If there is no harm done by the process, then why is the industry so dead set against regulation? If it is such an non-issue, then why did they have Cheyney make them exempt from common sense standards to protect water and public health?

    Given what is at stake (the potential for groundwater and surface water pollution for decades or longer and public health threats to drinking water) there is no credible argument for non-regulation. The risks are far too great. Is our memory so short that we forget what happens when proper regulations are not in place? We need oversight to protect the future of our waterways, both surface and subsurface. If the industry has nothing to hide, there should be no problem as the industry boasts. Show us the proof.

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