Gasland {Documentary}

August 12, 2011 at 5:22 am (Local News)

I just got home from a free showing of Gasland at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. It was a deeply disturbing, saddening, and eye-opening film made by Josh Fox. In the film, Josh travels all over the U.S., spending a great deal of time in Wyoming and Colorado, to explore the side effects of natural gas fracking on drinking water and the health of the affected communities. Additionally, he looks into the process involved in leasing public lands to private gas companies (ahem, Encana, Haliburton), and the 2005 energy bill that exempts gas drillers from EPA standards such as the Clean Water Act. The documentary follows several families who discovered their water was contaminated after the gas companies showed up. Some of them have been paid off in small sums and have signed non-disclosure papers. Others are battling asthma, full-body pain, headaches, and lesions on their brains. Some of them purchase water at the store. Almost all of them can light a fire from the water coming out of their taps.

When we asked what could be done in Wyoming, or more specifically even in Jackson, all four of the panelists were less than optimistic. At this point, the land use permits and the rights to drill were auctioned off several years ago and the best case scenarios involve either purchasing the land back from the oil companies (even though they don’t own the land, it’s BLM and Forest Service, they have the legal right to it now) or attempting to place regulations on the companies about how they drill. One of the panelists – the whistleblower from the EPA – suggested that all the companies should be subjected to a test well system. They would be allowed to build one well, show that it was causing no environmental or human health damage, and if they were in compliance with the regulations they would then be allowed to proceed with building more wells.

One of the biggest problems with the natural gas industry is that it brings in a lot of money and many of the communities who are literally dying from the toxic chemicals in their air and water, were initially in support of building natural gas wells and pipes because of the money it would bring to their communities. Jackson is no exception. The upgrades to the schools and the increase in teachers’ salaries comes mostly from oil and gas money. At some point we, collectively as a community, a state, a country, will need to ween ourselves off of oil. How much longer we have is yet to be determined, but the damage is in progress.

A few crazy facts from the film:

-Over 80,000 pounds of chemicals are injected into the earth’s crust to Frack each well

-Researchers suspect that 65 of the chemicals used for Fracking are hazardous to human health

-Fracking Fluid calls for 2 million gallons of water, hauled by 100 water haulers

PS. There is a town in Texas called Dish, TX, population 150. They changed their name a few years ago with the promise that they would all received free Dish network services for 10 years. How crazy is that???

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