Documentary "Gaslands" at The Carlson Building:
Commentary and Review
Shown courtesy of the Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group (ECOGIG), the 2010 documentary, Gaslands, was well received by the twenty two people who watched it, enjoying the endless voice mail endured by filmmaker Josh Fox and the humor that underlies the entire film.
Concerned about the very real possibility of oil shale fracturing in the deposits underneath his native Pennsylvania and the unknown effects on the river which runs through his 19 acres, Fox began studying the issue, going as far west as Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, as far south as Louisiana and Arkansas, and as far east as Pennsylvania: 34 states in all that have fracturing going on-real or proposed.
Beginning in Deming, Pennsylvania, Fox takes a water sample to a laboratory for analysis, interviews about five families, and notes the loss of hair in animals as well as the loss of vegetation in the area. He continues to note loss of vegetation in adjoining states where oil and gas activity is going on, then lands in Fort Lupton, Weld County, CO, where he documents tap water that can be lighted in more than four sinks.
In Garfield County, where Fox interviewed Tara Meixsell among others, there were instances of asthma, a stream that bubbled with flammable materials, and a lot of dead animals that were still sitting in a freezer awaiting dissection by the authorities, two years after they'd died.
In Sublette County, Wyoming, an area the size of Connecticut, with a population just over 6,000, oil and gas exploration has reduced the land to waste by containment of the gas, by open pit fracturing fluid reservoirs, by shooting the fluid into the sky in order to evaporate it better, creating an acid rain. The land is bare; the water is grey.
Fox lays most of the recent boom in oil and gas development on the shoulders of Vice President Cheney, who, in 2005, chaired the energy committee that removed fracturing fluid from EPA clean water standards. His committee only met once with environmentalists; over 80 times with oil and gas executives.
Fracturing fluid, the movie made very clear, is a hazardous mixture, unsafe for humans, plants, or animals. One homeowner who met with officials from oil and gas companies produced a bottle of the stuff and invited them all to drink it. None of them would.
Congressman Michler of New York and Congresswoman DeGette of Colorado, both of whom serve on the House Energy Committee, were featured for their work to restore the clean water standards to fracking fluid and both were featured positively while grilling industry spokespeople about what was in fracturing fluid.
Fox reported that in the Delaware River Basin, which supplies New York City, most of New Jersey, and parts of Pennsylvania with drinking water, is being targeted for fracturing. Having gotten back his sample of water from Deming, Pennsylvania, he notes that it is loaded with anti freeze, benzene, and other harmful chemicals.
The documentary ended with Josh Fox returning to his home in Pennsylvania. After long shots of grass, trees, forests, rivers and idyllic views, he concludes that the fate of the environment and the land and the water is up to us.
Although the film was not shown in the most ideal circumstances: the room was hot because the doors were shut owing to mosquitoes and flies; the folding chairs got uncomfortable after awhile; it nevertheless was worth watching, no matter what side the viewer was on.
Mr. Shipper, Mr. Schlagel, and Mr. Schwab would have been welcomed. Instead, as all county officials did, they stayed away.
by William C. Thomas
Of course, the documentary concentrated on some of the worst violations; nevertheless, the public needs to know about those violations because it also revealed that the EPA is not doing its job and that many state health departments are so severely cut that they cannot do theirs. Also local governments seem determined to eschew their responsibility for assuring the safety of their citizens over the profit interests of Big Oil - at least until they are drawn into huge lawsuits.