What the Frack? CJ Environmental Examines the Fracking Argument

July 9, 2012

Gasland FrackingIn 2010, the documentary, Gasland, was released, alerting the world to the destructive nature of hydraulic fracturing – the primary method of natural gas drilling in the United States. The writer and director of the film, Josh Fox, was inspired to create the film after a natural gas company offered him $100,000 to drill for gas on his Milanville, Pennsylvania property.

The Film

In response to the drilling offer, Fox began a filmic study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on presently mined areas of the US, including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas. Fox noticed similarities among these communities, particularly health issues, compromised air and water quality, and the ability to set tap water on fire with a simple lighter.

In addition to those directly affected, Fox interviewed a variety of politicians, scientists, and gas industry representatives. He even attended a Congressional subcommittee meeting to repeal the exemption of hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act, as established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Critical Response

The film was received favorably by critics, with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Robert Koehler boldly called Gasland “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.” Australian film critic, Julie Riggs, described the film as a “horror movie, and a wake-up call.”

Negative Reception

On the opposite end, several oil and gas industry experts spoke out against the film, with special attention on the scene in which a man lights his tap water on fire. According to Dr. Michael Economides, Chairman of the Board of XGAS natural gas firm, “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.” Economides points to a potential gas leak as the source of the flammable tap water.

Energy in Depth, A Washington D.C. based oil and gas company, published an online list of the film’s factual inaccuracies, but Gasland’s website was quick to offer a point-for-point rebuttal.


FrackNation is a documentary film response to Gasland and is currently wrapping up production. The film was inspired by documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer’s (co-director of Not Evil Just Wrong, Mine Your Own Business, and Magdalena Segieda) live video confrontation with Josh Fox, concerning inaccuracies in Fox’s film.

The video confrontation features McAleer mentioning historical records (as early as the 17th century) of “burning water” occurring in the area of Fox’s famous scene. Fox attempted to have the video removed from YouTube and Vimeo, but FrackNation was able to thwart his efforts.

While McAleer is not necessarily pro-fracking, he categorizes Fox’s film as contributing to the “one-sided approach taken by the media, ‘outsiders’ and ‘urban elites.’” McAleer hopes to “feature both sides” in FrackNation.


Despite mixed responses, Gasland won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize, the 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Direction for Nonfiction Programming, and was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It should also be mention, the film sure spurred a lot of talk of the previously little known practice of hydraulic fracturing

If you, like Josh Fox, are interested in contributing to a better environment, why not start with what you’ve got at home? Send in your precious metals to CJ Environmental and help preserve our earth’s natural resources.

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