‘GasLand’ shows in Vail tonight | VailDaily.com

‘GasLand’ shows in Vail tonight

Tracey Flower
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Oscar nominations tend to create buzz as industry professionals and common-folk alike discuss who will win, who was robbed and personal picks for the best of the best. When New York-based director Josh Fox’s film “GasLand” was nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award it certainly created buzz, although not exactly the typical type of buzz a filmmaker expects or even hopes for.

Even before the Oscar nod the oil and gas industry was up in arms over “GasLand,” calling the film “inaccurate” and “misleading,” and once the film’s nomination was announced the controversy exploded, prompting gas industry officials to send a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demanding the nomination be revoked.

The nomination was not revoked and, as Fox noted in a 41-page report titled “Affirming GasLand,” which he issued in response to Energy in Depth’s “Debunking GasLand,” he was not surprised by the backlash.

Fox wrote: “I am issuing the following point-by-point rebuttal of their claims, not because I feel obligated to address what are clearly falsehoods and smear tactics, but to show the depth of the industry’s assault on the truth and to point out their obfuscations, misleading spins on information and attempts to shut down questions about their practices. We will be continuing to do the work necessary to have the film seen as much as possible and to offer the “GasLand” team’s expertise as we move forward.”

“GasLand” was born when Fox was asked to lease his land in northeastern Pennsylvania for natural gas drilling. He set out on a journey that took him across 32 states, where he met other rural residents on the front lines of a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Along the way he discovered toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, brutal illnesses and kitchen sinks that burst into flame, all of which “GasLand” points to as the result of fracking.

The Vail Symposium is screening “GasLand” tonight at Vail Mountain School. Fox will introduce the film via Skype. Local attorney Rohn Robbins will lead a post film discussion with the audience.

In an email Schuller Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) President and Chief Executive Officer Tisha Conoly Schuller called “GasLand” “creative” and “engaging” but encouraged Colorado residents to view it with the same “rational discrimination” as one views a story on TV or in the newspaper.

Much of the controversy over the film is centered on the fracking process, in which water and chemicals are injected into the ground to break open gas-bearing rocks. Environmental groups say the process can contaminate drinking water. Fox alleges that the gas industry has covered up the potential environmental risks of fracking, with the willing assistance of state and federal regulators. The industry denies the allegations that the process is harmful.

“Every aspect of oil and gas drilling, including all aspects of hydraulic fracturing, are highly regulated in the state of Colorado,” said Schuller. “Hydraulic fracturing is safe, highly engineered, and thoroughly regulated.”

Even before “GasLand’s” Oscar nomination the COGA released a report countering the film called “The Truth About GasLand.” The document details several points on which the COGA deems the film misleading, including an explanation for the film’s famous flaming sink, which Fox found in one Colorado resident’s home. Fox says the flames are the result of methane contamination from drilling. According to Schuller, flaming faucets have been present in Colorado sinks for decades due to shallow, naturally-occurring methane.

Fox also hopes people will continue to be aware of and continue to talk about what’s happening around them when it comes to natural gas drilling. He continues to fight back against the oil and gas industry, frequently speaking out about the dangers he’s observed and fighting for change.

Fox wrote in “Affirming GasLand”: “We wish both Energy in Depth and the gas industry as a whole would behave differently towards people living in gaslands across the globe. We urge them to see the problems that they are causing and move swiftly to correct them – and if they cannot, to cease the practice of hydraulic fracturing immediately.”

Tracey Flower works as a communications associate with the Vail Symposium. She can be reached at info@vailsymposium.org.

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