01/27/2011 07:36 PM

High hopes for ‘Gasland’ at Academy Awards

By: Lori Chung
YNN Your News Now – link to original post here: http://centralny.ynn.com/content/all_news/531551/high-hopes-for–gasland–at-academy-awards/

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

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HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. — There are many memorable scenes from the documentary Gasland – an exposé of sorts on the gas drilling industry that’s now up for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

“To get this far and this kind of recognition, I’m really happy for him,” said Wes Gillingham, the director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper program.

Director Josh Fox screened the film all across the state, taking part in the grassroots movement to fight the gas industry’s attempts to begin fracking the Marcellus Shale, and to protect drinking water sources activists say might be polluted by the process. Gillingham took part in a few panel discussions during several of those screenings.

“There were a lot of people there that were just plain shocked and had a real visceral reaction that we would allow some of these impacts,” said Gillingham.

“In the case of Gasland, once again, you have a movie that tries to point out environmental problems and societal problems,” said film critic Neil Rosen.

Rosen said those are attributes that makes Gasland attractive to Academy voters. While the nomination has already brought more attention to the film and its cause, and Oscar win could bring an anti-fracking message to a worldwide audience.

“Most people don’t watch documentaries unless there’s a lot of press, and a lot of buzz and a lot of word of mouth,” said Rosen.

“More people will rent the DVD, more people will see it and more people will be aware of the impacts of how we get our energy,” said Gillingham.

The gas industry has long disputed the claims in Gasland. Now, America’s Natural Gas Alliance has launched a website titled “The Truth About Gasland” as a challenge to many of the points in the documentary.

But for now, many are just waiting to see if the film will earn a statuette on Oscar night.


The number of places where drilling has poisoned the water, air and land in communities keeps rising and we can expect that as drilling continues, these incidents will go up.  This has not lessoned the pro-drilling forces from pushing for more drilling at every opportunity and with total disregard for the consequences.  Below is a digest of some of the recent events that reinforces our need to be vigilant and active.

depIn a public letter to citizens yesterday, Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Hanger lashed out at Cabot Oil & Gas for denying their responsibility for water contamination in Dimock, PA. He said that there is overwhelming evidence that they are responsible for the gas migration that has caused families to be without a permanent water supply for nearly 2 years.  He continued that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will seek court orders to make Cabot pay for all costs relative to constructing a new 5.5 mile water main to bring drinkable water to Dimock, PA. Cabot’s response has been to launch a public relations campaign and much misinformation concerning who will be party to that solution and who will end up paying for it.  To read Secretary John Hanger’s full statement, click here.

Pavillion MapThe EPA has told the residents of Pavillion, a rural community on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, not to drink their water and to use fans and ventilation while bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion.  This warning came after the EPA found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols, methane and other contaminants in groundwater and area wells. The EPA has identified at least three water wells containing chemicals used in the fracking process, but will not say whether there is a definite connection until they complete their current study of the effects of fracking on water.  While we understand that the EPA cannot make definitive statements until all of their scientific testing is in, this is another clear case of how fracking has poisoned the water in a community.  Click here to join the thousands who have signed our petition asking the DEC not to greenlight gas drilling using hydrofracking until they can review the results of the EPA’s scientific study. Read the petition and signatures here.

A Pennsylvania organic tomato farmer, George Zimmerman has filed suit against Atlas Energy

Gas Drilling Site in Hickory, PA

Inc.for polluting his soil and water with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.  Water tests near his home found seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above “screening levels” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Baseline tests that were done on the property a year before drilling began were “perfect”.  However, tests done in June 2010 found arsenic at 2600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits and naphthalene 5 times above federal standards. These are substances that can’t be made by nature, and yet that is what is now in the ground.  If Zimmerman wins, it would be the first case to prove that hydraulic fracturing causes water contamination.  He said he has invested about $11 million in the estate, which includes a winery and an heirloom-tomato business, but he now just wants to walk away because he believes it has been ruined by gas drilling.  Zimmerman rates his chances of selling it, as “slim to none” because of the proven water contamination.   For more on this story, click here:

Despite this clear and empirical evidence the rush to drill continues.

state forests mapThe DEC has said that they are “inclined to consider natural gas developed on State Forests due in part to the fact that it is a cleaner burning energy alternative.”  That is, of course, the rationale that the gas industry uses. While it may be true that the burning of natural gas may produce fewer particulates and other polluting emissions than other fossil fuels, it also causes more strain on the water supply, introduces pollutants into the water supply, chemically poisons land in the case of accidental chemicals spills and more.  Right now commercial mines in State Forests are prohibited. State forests were created precisely in order to protect these lands from development, and that status should be maintained. The DEC is taking public comment on its draft forest management plan until October 29. You can comment by emailing the DEC or mailing them at:
Strategic Plan for State Forest Management
NYS DEC, 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4255.”

For a thorough analysis of the this issue read the story Julia Reischel in the Watershed Post

Despite the fact that gas wells using hydrofracking are not yet approved in New York State, gasPIPELINE
companies can now apply for and get permission to build shale gas pipelines that connect their well pads to larger pipelines because approval of these smaller pipelines is not covered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  The approval is done by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) who can approve pipelines that are up to 10 miles in length.  Each pipeline is approved individually, and because PSC is not doing a cumulative impact analysis pipelines are likely to proliferate dangerously and with massive environmental degradation.  On Wednesday October 20th, Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham will testify at the PCS public hearing.  The written comment period lasts until October 29th, 2010.  We urge you to click here to submit written comments asking that all pipelines regardless of their length be under DEC approval jurisdiction.

The DRBC did not release their draft regulations on drilling for natural gas using fracking last week DRKas they had previously scheduled.  They have now delayed that release until November or December 2010.  While some groups have hailed this as a “victory”, it is unclear whether this delay is good news or bad news for safe gas drilling.  Regardless of their intention, we have to keep up the pressure to require them to wait until the science has been reviewed and analyzed before releasing any regulations.   We need to tell the DRBC Commissioners that it is essential that the cumulative impact study be completed before they issue draft regulations.  Please write a letter to the Commissioners today calling on them to keep a moratorium on drilling in place until the results of the scientific studies can be reviewed and analyzed.  Click here to send a letter to the Commissioners from the Delaware Riverkeeper’s site.

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Natural gas rush will come at expense of NYC’s water

Monday, September 22nd 2008, 6:18 PM

Be Our Guest: James Gennaro, councilman

In the recent oil rush film “There Will Be Blood,” early 20th century speculators go door to door and offer struggling landowners money in exchange for the right to drill through the ground and reap the riches that flow underneath.

About 100 miles north of New York City, in the watershed from which 9 million New Yorkers get their drinking water, a similar scene is being played out right now. As a result of a new law recently passed by the state Legislature that will greatly facilitate natural gas drilling upstate, energy companies are paying landowners princely sums for leases allowing them to drill for gas almost 2 miles underground using an environmentally problematic technique called “hydraulic fracturing.”

In the film version of this story, the prospecting enriches everyone involved, but not without terrible environmental and human tolls from contamination. In the real-life version of this story, environmental experts and I warn of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses for the New York City drinking water supply. As a geologist, environmental scientist and public policymaker who has been deeply involved in efforts to preserve and enhance the city’s drinking water quality for almost 20 years, I believe that this activity will result in the degradation of the water quality in the city’s upstate reservoirs and ultimately lead to city residents being forced to pay in excess of $10 billion for a water filtration plant to clean up the mess.

We cannot allow this to happen. Not to ourselves, and not to our children. With state legislation already passed in stealth, it is now up to the public and the media – and the power of its collective voices – to make sure a bad state law doesn’t pollute New York City’s drinking water supply and cost city taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.

The law in question, S8169A, will help expand drilling prospects greatly across upstate New York‘s Marcellus Shale underground rock formation, including areas within New York City’s drinking water supply watershed. This law could have and should have excluded the area within the city’s drinking water supply, but it didn’t. At a public hearing that I chaired in City Hall on Sept. 10, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis would not commit to formally excluding our drinking water supply from drilling, but that may change if enough New Yorkers stand up and join me in my protest.

Hydraulic fracturing has contaminated water supplies in other states, including Wyoming and New Mexico. The method, which for each well forces millions of gallons of water, sand and industrial chemicals through earth as deep as 9,000 feet underground, has been decried for its impact on water supplies by numerous environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Catskill Mountainkeeper and Earthwatch’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

There are abundant areas upstate outside of the city’s watershed that overlay the Marcellus Shale where drilling could conceivably proceed with the proper environmental safeguards. But not in our water supply. Never in our water supply. Let’s not let the allure of the short-term economic gain from drilling blind us to the fact that if this is allowed in our water supply, the economic benefits will pale in comparison to degraded reservoirs and a prohibitively expensive filtration plant we wouldn’t otherwise need.

Everyone knows that water and oil don’t mix. Neither do water and natural gas.

James Gennaro is chairman of the New York City Council‘s Committee on Environmental Protection.’It is now up to the public and the media.’

Catskills topic of talk

 ONEONTA _ Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper, will give a talk titled “The Future of the Catskills: Can Catskill Mountainkeeper Help?” on Tuesday.The event will be at 7 p.m. in the Strawbale House at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus as part of the ongoing “Conversations at the Lake” series.

Gillingham will discuss his work with Catskill Mountainkeeper, a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill Mountain range and the quality of life of those who live there.

Read more here