Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Gasland is an award-winning documentary--Special Jury prize at Sundance 1010--that had trouble attracting a distributor, and probably won't be playing at a theater near you anytime soon.

But the environmental horror story it recounts may be already: hydraulic fracturing (fracking)--a radically destructive method of extracting natural gas--is happening all over the country, from California to Wyoming (on the edge of Yellowstone) to Texas to Florida to Tennessee to Virginia to Pennsylvania.

If you're a New York City resident, like me, you, too, have a lot to worry about.

Director Josh Fox began the investigations that led to Gasland after getting an offer to lease his land in Pennsylvania for gas drilling.

First he hears of ominous effects in nearby towns, including water that has turned flammable since drilling began.

Then he sets out across the country--making a real-life, blacker-than-black comedy/horror road movie.

He witnesses many drinking water-lighting shows, learns of people living in homes that could explode, and suffering the effects of toxic air and toxic water, hears about company officials that visit those whose water they've ruined, assuring them the water's safe but refusing to drink it, and delves into the science and politics of Fracking.

Fracking works by injecting millions of gallons of water, along with 80 to 300 tons of chemicals, vertically into a gas well or horizontally into an area that couldn't have been drilled before, to fracture shale, releasing natural gas.

Thanks to the Bush/Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005 (known as the Halliburton Loophole), the natural gas extraction industry is now exempt from the Safe Water Drinking Act. The chemical stews they use are considered "proprietary," and not subject to any kind of regulation.

An EPA official speaking to Fox off the record tells him, "We're not permitted as a government agency to answer your legitimate question."

A bill to overturn the exemption--the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act--has been introduced in both houses of Congress, as S. 1215 and H. 2766, but languishes in committee.

We need to do our best to make sure it passes.

For information about the film, the issue, how close you live to fracking sites, and ways of helping to stop it, check out:


Through 2012, you can catch Gasland on HBO; the DVD will be out in December.