Gasland Part II, the sequel to the groundbreaking documentary that exposed the risks associated with the natural gas industry's hydraulic fracturing method of gas extraction, known as fracking, will premiere tonight on HBO. Josh Fox, the filmmaker behind both films recently made the media rounds to promote the sequel. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening Tuesday evening at HBO and highly recommend seeing this film.
Here's the trailer:
In the first Gasland, Fox was educating himself and the public about what natural gas fracking is and how it poisons water sources. In this follow-up, Fox is documenting the many ways property owners are being threatened and financially ruined by natural gas companies and how the government, in particular the EPA, is not doing enough to protect American citizens.
Seeing the film a few hours after watching President Obama's great speech on climate change, I was struck by the contrast behind the optimism of President's speech and the disturbing realities of how the EPA can be hindered by political and industry interests. Obama's hype about the promise of natural gas as a transitional fuel also helped me see that however well-intentioned, parts of his plan are potentially inadequate for the scale of the climate change crisis.
David Hinkley at NY Daily News sees the film as angry, but ultimately focused on educating the public:
“Gasland Part II” couches its anger in the measured tones of someone who is trying to suppress that anger long enough to explain to outsiders why the situation is so outrageous.
It may not change the discussion, because environmental issues have fallen down the depth chart of our collective concern the last couple of years.
But it’s hard to watch this and not at least wonder whether our push for production might not be the next “solution” that turns out to poison our water. And our children.
One of the interesting threads throughout Gasland Part II is how the film tells the stories of the different types and socio-economic level of families that have been harmed by the gas industry. Fracking has happened in lots of rural areas, but the film sheds a light on the overwhelming vastness of this gas drilling and the wealthy parts of the country that are negatively affected, as well. For example, there have been multi-million dollar homes that are hard to sell because of contaminated water.
For an added level of information, Josh Fox has used social media to continue to raise awareness about these individual cases:
Brett Brownell Mother Jones recaps where Gasland I left off and where Gasland II picks up:
Gasland ended with coverage of a June 4, 2009, hearing by the House Energy and Minerals subcommittee that addressed the safety and risks of natural gas drilling. Fox narrates, "The FRAC Act is making its way through Congress, and industry is lobbying hard against it." The FRAC Act called for the removal of hydraulic fracturing's exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and would have implemented federal regulation of the industry. But the bill never received a vote.
Gasland Part II premieres tonight on HBO and picks up in the spring of 2010, with Fox touring the Gulf of Mexico by helicopter. Below, oil from BP's exploded Deepwater Horizon rig streams along the surface. Through voiceover, Fox explains how difficult it was to get clearance to fly in the area. "Journalists would call up the FAA to clear flights," he says, "and BP would answer the phone." It's an emotional sequence, which immediately sparks a sense of injustice and opens up the film's broad theme of industry influence on government.
Fox also attended Morning Joe to discuss the film and how the gas industry has fought back against his activism.
With the degree to which the Obama administration has supported the gas industry as a transitional fuel to get away from coal, it is great to see Fox and Gasland II getting this attention and raising the issues related to this source of energy.
Tune-in to Gasland II tonight and let us know what you think about the film in the comments below.