Watch Gasland, be grossed out


Well, this month’s environmental documentary (is there a series developing here?) is Josh Fox’s Gasland, which looks at the practice of natural gas hydrofracturing across the U.S. Let me issue a spoiler: It’s not good news, folks.

Fox is from eastern Pennsylvania, right on the edge of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation that I mentioned recently (it also underlies Virginia’s George Washington National Forest). He was asked to lease his land for gas drilling, which would have meant an instant $100,000 windfall, but instead he launched an inquiry into the practice of fracking and, in particular, what it does to local drinking water.

The journey took him to a nearby Pennsylvania hamlet where, because of polluted water, people are sick and animals are losing all their hair. From there, he went out West and met folks who can actually light their tap water on fire, so tainted it is by natural gas.

Fox details the dubious mixture of chemicals (a proprietary blend) injected by drilling companies into the groundwater, as well as shocking practices like spraying wastewater into the air so that it can evaporate–and then release its toxins onto the ground somewhere else. And he connects the dots between energy companies like Halliburton and a 2005 decision by the feds not to hold drilling companies accountable to the Clean Water Act. (Guess what former vice president constitutes the missing link?)

Good thing Fox himself is a likeable character, because there’s not much to feel good about here. I definitely recommend the film, though, because fracking is an issue that’s locally relevant and increasingly timely. Unfortunately, following that 2005 rule change, there’s a real fracking gold rush underway.

Anyone else seen this one?