Gasland

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For the Norwegian politician and psychiatrist, see Anders Gåsland.
Gasland
Gaslandlogo.jpg
Directed by Josh Fox
Produced by Trish Adlesic
Molly Gandour
Josh Fox
David Roma
Written by Josh Fox
Narrated by Josh Fox
Cinematography Josh Fox
Edited by Matthew Sanchez
Distributed by New Video Group
Release dates
  • January 24, 2010 (2010-01-24) (Sundance)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $49,428

Gasland is a 2010 American documentary written and directed by Josh Fox. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011, the film focuses on communities in the United States affected by natural gas drilling and, specifically, a method of horizontal drilling into shale formations known as hydraulic fracturing.

Synopsis[edit]

John Fenton, a farmer and rancher from Pavillion, Wyoming, USA, has become an internationally recognized anti-hydraulic fracturing activist following his appearance in Gasland. He is pictured here at a public event in Sheridan, Wyoming, USA, on September 15, 2012. [1]

Fox narrates his reception of a letter in May, 2008, from a natural gas company offering to lease his family's land in Milanville, Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas.[2] Fox then set out to see how communities are being affected in the west where a natural gas drilling boom has been underway for the last decade. He spent time with citizens in their homes and on their land as they relayed their stories of natural gas drilling in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas, among others. He spoke with residents who have experienced a variety of chronic health problems directly traceable to contamination of their air, of their water wells or of surface water. In some instances, the residents are reporting that they obtained a court injunction or settlement money from gas companies to replace the affected water supplies with potable water or water purification kits.[3]

Throughout the documentary, Fox reached out to scientists, politicians, and gas industry executives and ultimately found himself in the halls of Congress as a subcommittee was discussing the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, "a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing."[4] Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.[5]

Production[edit]

Josh Fox plays his banjo at a jam session following an environmental meeting in Sheridan, Wyoming, USA, on November 5, 2011. Fox was the featured speaker.

Gasland was conceived, directed, primarily filmed and narrated by Fox. This is his first documentary and second film; his first was a narrative feature entitled Memorial Day. The executive producers of Gasland are Debra Winger and Hunter Gray; producers are Trish Adlesic, Fox and Molly Gandour; co-produced by David Roma; cinematographers are Fox and Matthew Sanchez; editor is Matthew Sanchez; supervising sound editor is Brian Scibinico;[6] animators are Juan Cardarelli and Alex Tyson; consultants are Morgan Jenness and Henry Chalfant and researchers are Molly Gandour, Barbara Arindell, Fox and Joe Levine.[7]

The documentary was made in about eighteen months. Fox began the project as a one man crew, but was joined by three other cameras at different points.[8] Matt Sanchez is credited with the structure of the film and together with Fox edited roughly 200 hours of footage to about 100 minutes.[9]

"Biogenic" and "thermogenic"[edit]

Dave Neslin and the State of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources issued a statement regarding “errors in the film’s portrayal of the Colorado incidents.”[10] Neslin, now of David Graham and Stubbs LLP,[11] a law firm specializing in representing energy companies,[12] was approached but not included in the film. His statement focuses in part on a distinction between biogenic and thermogenic gas:

  • Biogenic gas is made by microbes, near the surface and often in marshy areas, and is predominantly methane (CH4).
  • Thermogenic gas is made by heat and pressure, and contains a mixture of light and heavy hydrocarbons. Shale is often in large slanted formations, so may be deep underground or at the surface.

Since the gas is sampled at some unknown distance from the source of the contamination, the mixture of gases in the sample is often not conclusive. In this case, carbon dating and similar techniques are used to determine the age of the sample. Biogenic methane is young: the molecule was recently put together. Thermogenic methane is old.

Gas chromatography is a sensitive probe of the gases present in a sample; it is traditionally an expensive piece of lab equipment. A Silicon Valley tech firm has developed a field portable version, combined with GPS locators and a wind gauge. This allows them to differentiate between a thermogenic gas leak from a pipe (methane and ethane) from biogenic gas (methane). Following a gas pipe explosion, PG and E bought a fleet of vehicles and have them patrolling the system for leaks, and can find a methane-ethane signature in ten minutes, according to the web page. Previous lab-based techniques could take a week to get a response. This technique does not rely on dating the sample. These setups can be dispatched to monitor gas frack fields.

Weld County, Colorado[edit]

Weld County is north of Denver 40°06′N 104°42′W / 40.1°N 104.7°W / 40.1; -104.7

Thermogenic argument
  • Regarding the Ellsworths—The COGCC concluded that a well belonging to Weld County landowners Jesse and Amee Ellsworth, also featured in the film, contained thermogenic methane that was attributable to oil and gas activity in the area. The report states that Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator in the area had reached a settlement in that case.[10] The Ellsworths live in the "red zone";[13] in an area on the map where there is a large cluster of red dots, where each dot represents a well.[14]
The biogenic argument
  • Regarding Mike Markham—In a scene from the film, Weld County landowner Mike Markham is shown with the film's director Josh Fox igniting gas from a well water faucet in his home with a cigarette lighter, which the film attributes to natural gas exploration in the area. In 2008, The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) investigated a complaint made by Markham alleging that nearby natural gas operations impacted his domestic water well.[15] A Colorado Oil and Gas Information System (COGIS) report stated that Markham’s water "appears to be biogenic in origin."
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission uses the origin of the methane, either biogenic or thermogenic, to determine whether or not the groundwater contamination can be attributed to natural gas drilling. According to the agency, natural gas drilling does not lead to the presence of biogenic methane. The 2008 COGIS report concluded that "there [were] no indications of oil and gas related impacts to [Markham's] water well." Markham’s water well was drilled through four different coal beds containing biogenic methane gas.[10]
  • Regarding Renee McClure—COGCC similarly reported that the water well belonging to Weld County landowner Renee McClure, also featured in the film, "showed naturally occurring biogenic methane gas" unrelated to oil and gas activity in the area.[16]
Reply to the biogenic argument
Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, D. C. Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, whose research has involved fracture mechanics for more than 30 years, has said that drilling and hydraulic fracturing can liberate biogenic natural gas into a fresh water aquifer. That is, just because gas is biogenic does not necessarily indicate that it reached a well by natural means.[17]

Reception[edit]

Positive[edit]

Robert Koehler of Variety referred to it as "one of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years… Gasland may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what Silent Spring was to DDT.”[18]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote, "Gasland is the paragon of first person activist filmmaking done right… By grounding a massive environmental issue in its personal ramifications, Fox turns Gasland into a remarkably urgent diary of national concerns."[19]

Stewart Nusbaumer of the Huffington Post wrote "Gasland... just might take you from outrage right into the fire of action."[20]

Gasland currently holds a 97% rating on the film site Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews.[21] Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live gave it a generally positive review, criticizing its similarity to other recent oil documentaries, yet praising its "extraordinary visual kick". He said "it is a very interesting story which is made better by the fact that the visuals of it are very poetic, very lyrical", and felt that its themes and ideas were relevant and well presented.

The Denton Record Chronicle said “Fox decides that his own backyard in Pennsylvania isn’t his exclusive property... Set to his own banjo music and clever footage, Gasland is both sad and scary... if your soul isn’t moved by the documentary, yours is a heart of shale."[22]

Bloomberg News critic Dave Shiflett wrote that Fox "may go down in history as the Paul Revere of fracking."[23]

Chicago TimeOut gave Gasland four out of five stars.[24]

In Australia, film critic Julie Riggs called the documentary a "horror movie, and a wake-up call."[25][26]

Fort Worth Business Press writer John-Laurent Tronche talks about the growing number of documentaries “that aim to shed a light on what they call a dirty, destructive practice: shale gas exploration. And although oil and gas supporters have labeled the motion pictures as radical propaganda, a local drilling activist said they’re part of a larger, critical look into an ever-growing industry."[27]

Negative[edit]

Energy in Depth (EiD), launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America,[28] has created a web page with a list of claimed factual inaccuracies in the documentary,[29] and produced an associated film titled TruthLand.[30] In response to the EID's list of claimed factual inaccuracies, the makers of Gasland offered a rebuttal.[31]

In an article for Forbes magazine, Dr. Michael Economides, a professor of engineering at the University of Houston, commented on the Gasland scene of "a man lighting his faucet water on fire and making the ridiculous claim that natural gas drilling is responsible for the incident. The clip, though attention-getting, is wildly inaccurate and irresponsible. To begin with, the vertical depth separation between drinking water aquifers and reservoir targets for gas production is several thousand feet of impermeable rock. Any interchange between the two, if it were possible, would have happened already in geologic time, measured in tens of millions of years, not in recent history."[32]

The movie Truthland, funded by the gas industry,[33][34][35][36] quotes Loren Salsman of Dimock PA saying that although gas in fact did migrate from 1500 feet to surface water subsequent to fracking, the problem can be easily repaired by adding cement "There was some methane migration when they drilled the well up on the hill here, uh, they didn't do such a great job cementin' the well, and it caused a little bit of the methane down around 1500 feet to spread.....They came back, pumped more cement in last October, and since then the levels have gone down and now they're back down to normal."

The documentary film FrackNation was inspired when documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer confronted Gasland director Josh Fox at an event in Chicago. McAleer confronted Fox about the historical records of people being able to ignite natural gas in water at "burning springs" long before fracking started. Fox responded to McAleer's questions by saying that this information was not included in Gasland because Fox did not think it was relevant. After the video of the questioning [37] was made public, Fox and his lawyers had the video removed from YouTube and Vimeo, although the FrackNation filmmakers successfully fought to have the video reinstated. This further led McAleer to believe that FrackNation was necessary to counter the "one-sided approach taken by the media, 'outsiders' and 'urban elites'". [38]

Awards[edit]

Won

  • 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming (Josh Fox)
  • 2010 Environmental Media Award for Best Documentary Feature
  • 2010 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize
  • 2010 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Artistic Vision award
  • 2010 Thin Line Film Festival Audience Award
  • 2010 Yale Environmental Film Festival Grand Jury Prize
  • 2010 Sarasota Film Festival Special Jury Prize

Nominated

Sequel[edit]

On February 2, 2012 Gasland's director Josh Fox was handcuffed and arrested as he attempted to film a Congressional hearing on gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing which the Environmental Protection Agency reported caused water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. Fox said he was arrested after Republicans refused to allow him to film because he did not have the proper credentials.[39]

A sequel to Gasland titled Gasland Part II premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 21, 2013.[40][41][42][43] A group of farmers, who were featured in FrackNation, were barred from attending the premier; the Festival stated that the group had not arrived in time and that the screening was full.[44][45][46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Illawarra Mercury Website (Australia). Fenton, John. (2014, February 28). CSG industry’s solution: bury proof. (Retrieved 2014-03-18.)
  2. ^ Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) film page on Gasland. 2010-11-19
  3. ^ Quoted from the Gasland documentary itself, at about minutes 35-40.
  4. ^ 111th United States Congress. "S. 1215: Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act." 2010-04-27
  5. ^ Energy Policy Act of 2005. Pub. L. 109-58, TITLE III, Subtitle C, SEC. 322. Hydraulic fracturing. 2011-02-06
  6. ^ "Brian Scibinico". imdb. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  7. ^ Sundance Film Festival. “Artists Interview at Sundance and About the Film.” 2010-04-24.
  8. ^ MakingOf. "Interview: Josh Fox." 2010-02-25. 2010-05-04.
  9. ^ IndieWire. “Sundance ’10: Gasland Director Josh Fox on Being a One Man Crew.” 2010-01-22. 2010-04-24.
  10. ^ a b c Statement of the State of Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regarding Gasland
  11. ^ Press release mentioning David Neslin from his new firm
  12. ^ "About DGS". Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP. 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  13. ^ COGCc map Using the "zoom in" tool, zoom in three times on Denver
  14. ^ Gasland, The Ellsworths, at 0:25:00
  15. ^ "Weld County landowner Mike Markham's complaint". Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. [unreliable source?]
  16. ^ "Weld County landowner Renee McClure's complaint". Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. [unreliable source?]
  17. ^ Affirming Gasland[unreliable source?]
  18. ^ Koehler, Robert (2010-01-25). "Gasland Movie Review from the Sundance Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  19. ^ Kohn, Eric (2010-01-30). "The Toxic Avenger: Josh Fox's 'GasLand'". indieWIRE. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  20. ^ Nusbaumer, Stewart (2010-02-18). "Big Sky Doc Film Fest: Gasland Fuel for Justice". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  21. ^ "Gasland (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  22. ^ Breeding, Lucinda (2010-02-18). "'GasLand' Worthy of Sundance Accolades". Denton Record-Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  23. ^ Shiflett, Dave (2010-06-21). "Cook a Hamburger, Blow Up Your Polluted Town". Bloomberg. 
  24. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (2010-11-24). "Gasland - Film - Time Out Chicago". Chicago.timeout.com. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  25. ^ "Movietime - 19 November 2010 - Gasland". Abc.net.au. 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  26. ^ "RN Australia Talks - 8 December 2010 - Australia Talks Movies: Gasland". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 2011-07-13. 
  27. ^ Tronche, John-Laurent (2010-04-12). "Drilling Documentaries Abound as Shale Gas Goes Nationwide". Fort Worth Business Press. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  28. ^ Honan, Edith (2010-06-17). "Film challenges safety of U.S. shale gas drilling". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  29. ^ Energy in Depth (June 9, 2010). "Debunking GasLand". Retrieved December 17, 2011. 
  30. ^ "A project of IPAA and Energy In Depth". TruthLand Movie. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
  31. ^ "Affirming Gasland". 
  32. ^ Economides, Michael (2010-04-22). "Slurring Natural Gas with Flaming Faucets and Other Propaganda". Forbes.com. 
  33. ^ "Gas industry funded pro-fracking movie 'Truthland,' tax filing reveals". RT. November 19, 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  34. ^ Fang, Lee (November 18, 2013). "The Fracking Industry’s Dishonest Response to ‘Gasland’". The Nation. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  35. ^ Trail, Innovation (August 2, 2012). ""Truthland" ignites fracking debate". North Country Public Radio. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  36. ^ Hipwell, Alisha (July 18, 2012). ""Truthland" attempts to debunk anti-fracking film "Gasland"". Shale Reporter. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  37. ^ McAleer confronts Gasland Director on YouTube
  38. ^ Politico, New film in defense of fracking, Feb. 2, 2012
  39. ^ "Gasland" Director Josh Fox Arrested at Congressional Hearing on Natural Gas Fracking. Democracy Now, February 2, 2012
  40. ^ Jeff Goodell. "New Anti-Fracking Film by Gasland's Josh Fox Targets Cuomo: 'Governor, What Color Will the Sky Be Over New York?' | Jeff Goodell | Politics News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
  41. ^ Posted: 05/15/2012 3:56 pm (2012-05-15). "Josh Fox, 'Gasland' Filmmaker And Activist, Working On Documentary Sequel". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
  42. ^ "Josh Fox Arrested on Capitol Hill While Filming 'Gasland' Sequel | Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews". Indiewire. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
  43. ^ "Gasland Part II". Tribeca Enterprises LLC. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  44. ^ Fox News, 'FrackNation' filmmaker claims group of farmers was barred from 'Gasland Part II' screening at Tribeca, April 23, 2013
  45. ^ "Tribeca Film Festival lies about shutting out farmers". FrackNation. April 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-16. 
  46. ^ "Tribeca Film Festival Turns Away Protesters Who Had Tickets to ‘Gasland’ Sequel". New York Times. April 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-16. 

External links[edit]