by Craig Masters
Fracking, the very word brings out the emotional images of burning water and children writhing in pain from cancer ridden organs. After watching from the sidelines and wondering where in the name of all that is science is the source of all this mis-information, the question has finally been answered. A “documentary” by a filmmaker named Josh Fox.
The descriptive sentence on the results page of a Google search for a web site entitled “gaslandthemovie.com” states, “When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies, and contamination…” On further investigation of the film and its claims about natural gas drilling, the trail of lies leads directly to Fox. The film and Fox have been idolized by the film industry and anti-capitalists in the U.S. and supported heavily by the Russian-controlled gas industry in Europe.
The award winning “propagandamentary” was the focus of an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which John Hanger, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the film is “fundamentally dishonest” and “a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.”
The question then becomes, what did Secretary Hanger mean by referring to the Fox film as dishonest? Hanger contends the film connects several lies in such a way as to lead viewers to a conclusion based solely on those key deceptions.
Lie number 1: Early in the film Fox claims he was sent a suspiciously lucrative contract by a gas company. He lied. The contract he had carefully redacted to hide the identifying information has been proven to be a draft copy of the proposal a land owners’ association had proposed to a gas company. The woman who actually created the document is interviewed on film by journalist, Phelim McAleer, and that interview can be seen in a film called ‘Fracknation.’
Lie number 2: The film sensationalizes a Colorado man, Mike Markham, igniting his tap water. The shot of the flaming water is dramatized by including a large fire extinguisher in the foreground. This scene is to deceive the viewer into believing the flaming tap water is a result of nearby natural gas drilling. However, leading scientist from universities in Wyoming and Colorado, the Federal EPA and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, have tested Markham’s water. These multiple investigations found that Markham had actually drilled his water well in a naturally occurring pocket of natural gas. Such pockets of methane are called “biogenic,” and occur throughout the country.
Lie number 3: The film flashes words across the screen about a 35 mile long area of dead fish in Dunkard Creek, Pensylvania. The intent is clearly to insinuate a fish kill in Dunkard Creek in Pennsylvania was the direct result of the gas drilling operations in the area. The truth, however, would not have fit Fox’s anti-fracking agenda. Multi-agencies, including law enforcement departments in the area, determined that legally permitted water discharge (run off) from a coal mine combined with criminal activity by a waste hauling contractor resulted in conditions that killed the stream. In 2009 a waste hauler named Alan Shipman pled guilty to 13 counts of illegal dumping of drilling waste. Shipman had contracted with Consol Energy which owned an area well site. Consol was also found guilty of crimes ranging from failing to maintain logs of shipments, to leaving the well site gates unlocked resulting in illegal movement to and from the site. Consol was fined over $150,000.
While the fish kill was mainly blamed on the coal mine run-off creating conditions which resulted in a toxic algae, the criminal activities of the waste hauler were more than minimally implicated. Neither cause was even given a moment of inclusion by Fox in the film. Instead, he chose to deceive the viewers into seeing his ‘truth’; that fracking operations had caused uncontrollable conditions that released toxic waste into the waterway. No wonder the Pennsylvania state officials were outraged over this particular deception. Their investigative work and subsequent prosecution of criminals is completely ignored in favor of misleading propaganda.
Fox and many of his gullible followers, including Hollywood celebrities, made headlines in Dimrock, PA, where water wells were supposedly contaminated as a result of drilling. One couple produced brown colored water claiming it was from their well. However, the couple refused to allow credible testing and refused to allow credible witnesses to observe while samples were drawn from their well. Officials from the state of Pennsylvania, scientists from Penn State, and eventually the U.S. EPA all failed to confirm the alleged well pollution.
The U.S. EPA statement released July 25, 2012 stated, “Following requests by residents, EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.”
In other words, the Fox followers were wrong again! Nevertheless, the hysteria of these deceptions have resulted in city councils such as the council members in Fort Collins refusing to listen to reason and scientists – even from CSU – while passing public regulations against drilling for gas on private property they claim jurisdiction over. There and elsewhere, emotion and fear trump science and result in conflict between freedom, liberty and more government control.
Loveland City Council will be holding a public meeting to accept comments about proposed oil and gas regulations for Loveland on Tuesday, March 19. The agenda begins at 6:30 PM in the City Hall City Council Chambers at 500 E. 3rd Street, Loveland, Colorado.