Sunday, June 20, 2010

‘Gasland’ - Do the pictures tell the fracking story?

The natural gas industry’s efforts to assure the public of the safety of  pumping millions of gallons of  water and chemicals into the ground beneath homes and farms is getting more difficult thanks to an independent film called Gasland.

Filmmaker Josh Fox tells us that the idea for the documentary started when a gas drilling company offered his family $4700 an acre for some ‘non-invasive’ drilling below his Pennsylvania property. 

Fox wanted to know more hydrofracturing (fracking, for short), the process used to blast the gas out of  subsurface shale rock. But he couldn’t find much written about it. So he went online and followed the headlines. His research took him to the town of Dimock, Pa where bad things started happening to property owners after Cabot Oil began drilling and fracking.  

Fox taped an interview with a homeowner whose water turned color, then started smelling bad. Then her cat started projectile vomiting and her horse started losing hair.  She contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection. They told her she was cleaning with too much Lysol.  She must have wondered if this wasn’t just something happening to her.  Then neighbors returned home on New Year’s Day, 2009 and found their water well had exploded.

Shaken by what he found, Fox went on the road to learn more about natural gas fracking. He wanted to find out if Dimock was the exception rater than the rule.  He discovered that fracking was being used in 34 states.  Water and health problems were turning up in many places where it was being used.

In Colorado, he visited a man who turned on his kitchen faucet, put a cigarette lighter alongside the water stream and , in seconds, the water ignited.  Yes, the water ignited.

Interview with  NOW on PBS’s David Brancaccio

Fox says that half of the fracking water injected into the ground is not pulled back to the surface.  What happens to it?  What’s its effect on water supplies?  Will the short-term benefits of a home-grown energy supply balance out potential long-term damages if the drinking water sources for millions of residents in New York City and Philadelphia are compromised ?

The film raises these questions.  And others. Like why is natural gas drilling exempt from federal environmental laws like the Clean Water Act?   

Gasland has won several notable film awards and its backers are setting up screenings in numerous towns where fracking is either in use or planned.  They’re spreading the word on blog sites and through the news media. 

What must be most upsetting for the natural gas industry and its lobbyists is the fact that HBO will broadcast Gasland nationally on Monday, June 21 at 9 p.m. (EDT).  
The film’s supporters are encouraging people to invite their friends for screening parties.

The gas industry says the film is biased and inaccurate.   They say it is unfair to landowners who, in difficult economic times, may be deprived of an opportunity to make money from property leases.  They point to natural gas as a way to lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign energy supplies.  They call it a ‘bridge fuel’ that will keep America’s economy running until the day that the great promise of solar and wind energy can be realized.

Joint Landowners Coalition of New York 'debunks' Gasland

What do you think?  We recommend that you watch Gasland on Tuesday night.   Then read the industry’s side of the story.  Then make up your own mind.  We also hope that you’ll share your opinions here, using the box below.  

Film challenges safety of U.S. shale gas drilling 
Documentary should be required viewing for Pa. legislators 
Gasland premier in Binghamton, NY 
Drilling Poses Risk To Pennsylvania Water Supplies

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