By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — A new documentary rebutting some of the more outlandish claims in “GasLand” is touring Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia, and will screen at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Kent State University Stark Campus.
In one of the original’s more dramatic claims, fire roars from a running kitchen faucet.
This documentary, called “Truthland,” has a flaming faucet of its own, in a kitchen that’s miles from any fracking activity.
“Truthland” follows Pennsylvania schoolteacher Shelly Depue around the country while she interviews energy experts and others. She occasionally sets fire to naturally occurring methane in creeks.
The 35-minute short can also be seen at truthlandmovie.com. The production costs were paid by natural gas companies, but protagonist Depue and the experts appearing on screen weren’t paid anything, according to the film’s producers.
The discovery of hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale has brought economic rebirth to the once-moribund northern Appalachian region. It’s also central to Gov. John Kasich’s tax plans.
The term refers to the practice of blasting a solution of water, sand, and chemicals into wells to crack the shale rock found a mile or more below ground, freeing natural gas to flow back up the well. The industry reports that it’s been used in more than a million wells over the past 50 years.
Some environmentalists worry that chemicals could make their way back up to water tables, which are usually a few hundred feet below ground.
“GasLand” argues that chemicals are doing just that — and making people sick. But “Truthland” includes a clip of Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, refuting the claim.
“In no case have we made a definitive determination that fracking has caused chemicals to enter groundwater,” she said.
“Definitive” is the keyword. There are concerns about groundwater pollution at one Wyoming location, although they are far from proven, and a new study in Pennsylvania raises the possibility of underground passageways that could lead to groundwater contamination one day, but that study is also preliminary, and unconnected to fracking.
Screw-ups in the drilling process also pose environmental risks, but that’s true for all types of drilling.
Those concerns are rather less dramatic than the ailing livestock and mysterious diseases “GasLand” traffics in. “Truthland” easily rebuts the misinformation.
“We’ve never had one case of frack fluids going down the gas well and coming back up and contaminating somebody’s water well,” says John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Terry Engelder, a geoscience professor at Penn State, tells Depue that the flaw in “GasLand” “is that there is a tremendous amount of innuendo in the movie. The innuendo, of course, is that all of the problems you see filmed in that movie are a direct result of the gas industry, and in particular, hydraulic fracturing.”
Gary Hanson, the director of Red River Watershed Management Institute in Louisiana, says “it’s literally impossible to frack up into a groundwater zone.”
The “Truthland” crew also talked to Jim Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund, who says “most of the probems we see in the natural gas area are due to poor well construction, poor cement work, spilling stuff on the ground. Fracking itself does not seem to have caused a lot of problems so far.”