Natural gas drilling supporters gathered in Susquehanna County on Tuesday night to view the television premiere of a documentary aimed at rebutting environmentalists’ claims about the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
The globetrotting film, which takes aim at Josh Fox’s 2010 anti-drilling documentary “Gasland,” gives Northeast Pennsylvania a prominent role. It features Wayne County farmers who joined together to draft a protective lease, Dimock Twp. residents who say methane infiltrated their water wells long before gas drilling began nearby, and a Montrose dairy farmer who calls the gas well on his property “the best cow on the farm.”
Unlike industry-funded films meant to counter the arguments in “Gasland,” “FrackNation” was funded by about 3,300 nonindustry donors through the online fundraising platform Kickstarter. In it, filmmaker and journalist Phelim McAleer interviews scientists who refute claims that fracking contributes to cancer, earthquakes or flammable faucets and confronts anti-drilling activists about the economic damage caused by drilling bans in the U.S. and abroad.
Clifford Root, a Tioga County landowner, said during a commercial break that he thought the film represented voices that have not been heard enough.
“These farmers are telling the truth,” he said, “that they wouldn’t be able to make it without some help.”
The royalty owners group encouraged the three dozen people in the crowd to begin speaking, tweeting and posting their perspectives online.
“FrackNation” presents a withering picture of a Dimock couple who argued that their water was contaminated by drilling and blames them for instigating an ongoing drilling ban in a portion of the township. But Mr. McAleer opens himself to the same criticism he levels at Mr. Fox – that he “didn’t include relevant reports” about naturally occurring methane in “Gasland” – because he does not explain that Pennsylvania environmental regulators imposed the ban after they found high levels of methane had channeled from faulty gas wells into 18 water supplies.
Drilling is still on hold there because regulators have not yet determined that the methane levels are low enough to meet the terms of a state enforcement action against the driller.
The “Gasland” creators issued a statement saying that Mr. Fox refused contact with Mr. McAleer because he “persistently harassed” and misrepresented Mr. Fox and has “a long history of baiting environmentalists, denying climate change and willfully spreading misinformation.”