Portal:Water/"Gasland," the New Silent Spring
Gasland is a 2010 movie directed by American filmmaker and environmental activist Josh Fox. The film exposes the dangers of drilling for shale oil and gas in the United States and features communities that have been impacted.
Fox began working on the film after he received a letter from a "natural" gas company offering to lease his family's property in northeast Pennsylvania. Fox documented communities across the country where drilling had already commenced. He found individuals who were able to ignite the head of their faucets on fire from the chemicals seeping through the pipes. He also found individuals suffering from health issues which they attributed to a contaminated well. Fox discovered residents who reported having obtained a court injunction or settlement from gas companies to replace or purify water supplies.
Fox won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming in 2011 for the film, and it was a nominee for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards the same year. Fox's production company, "The International WOW Company," describes the movie as an effort to document the impacts as "the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States. What is uncovered 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."
Robert Koehler of Variety referred to the film as “one of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years… "Gasland" may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was to DDT.” Bloomberg News critic Dave Shiflett wrote that Fox "may go down in history as the Paul Revere of fracking."
Immediately upon the film's release, Energy In Depth issued a paper claiming to "debunk" the film's documentary evidence. Kevin Grandia, former editor of DeSmogBlog, in an article written on the Huffington Post titled "Who are the spin doctors behind the attack on Gasland?," stated "[I]t looks like Gasland is starting to get under the skin of the oil and gas industry. I guess the dinosaurs in the dirty fuel lobby don't like videos of people who can light their tap water on fire after their wells are contaminated with methane gas."
Energy in Depth (EID) is a pro-oil-and-gas drilling industry front group formed by the American Petroleum Institute, the Petroleum Association of America and dozens of additional industry organizations for the purpose of denouncing the FRAC Act proposed by Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette to regulate underground fracking fluids. They have crafted an entire campaign to delegitimize Fox's film, coining itself "Debunking Gasland." Many Facebook and Google users have even reported "Debunking Gasland" ads popping up on those respective websites. Josh Fox has responded to these claims in a piece titled "Affirming Gasland." The 41-page report was co-written with Weston Wilson of the Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University, and Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, among others. The document addresses industry smear campaign talking points. seen here.
The film has played an instrumental role in fueling activism against fracking, which has even been acknowledged by the gas industry. In September 2011, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association Tisha Conoly-Schuller said she hates to credit the film, but notes that Gasland has played a key role growing opposition to the practice: "These nuts make up 90 percent of our population so we can't call them nuts any more." She then advised the industry to make fracking "hipper" to appeal to young people and reframe the debate in terms of jobs and the economy.
Fox is currently filming a follow-up to Gasland. Fox told the Center for Media and Democracy that this film will focus on the "pollution in our government," rather than the pollution in our ground. "The gas industry has been successful in purchasing our government and has bought its way into conversations on energy, drowning out voices of citizens," he said. "It's shameful and its criminal."
For his latest project, Fox looked at the hazards of fracking not only in the U.S., but globally. It will include footage from drilling sites in Europe, Africa, and Australia. While producing the film, he discovered that the outrage against hydraulic fracturing is global. France has banned fracking, there is a moratorium in South Africa against it and growing opposition in places like the United Kingdom and Canada.
Fox released a short film in June 2012 targeting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his plan to open up certain parts of the state to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." The 18-minute film calls out Cuomo on recent revelations that his administration plans to open up a few counties in the state to be fracked -- which critics say targets economically distressed parts of the states. The film also exposes oil and gas industry internal documents which detail concerns about well safety and water contamination.
Another film changing the terms of the debate on fracking is called "Split Estate."