No, Gasland is not an unsafe theme park. It’s the title of a jolting new documentary by filmmaker Josh Fox, which premiered on HBO a few nights ago. It left me with a sickening feeling about the industry that drills for natural gas. It makes you want to look at the list of countries you could move to. But then you say, hey, this is my country, too, made for you and me, as the song goes, so let’s do something about this.
This is Hydraulic fracturing, “a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. This petroleum engineering method has been used over the past 60 years (though high-volume horizontal processes are much more recent) in more than one million wells by the worldwide natural gas and oil exploration and production industry to create fractures that extend from a wellbore drilled into targeted rock formations to enhance oil and natural gas recovery.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as fracking is being used today.
In fact, the inciting incident of this series occurred, when Josh Fox received an offer out of nowhere for $100,000 to purchase the gas drilling rights to his property in the Delaware River Basin, an area often called the “Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas.” Instead of taking the money, he decided to go off on a cross-country journey to look into the risks to local environments. His series is an on the road tale that would send the ghost of Kerouac back to the bottle. But Fox shares with Kerouac a sense of ease and compassion with the everyday people he encounters. He exhibits a real ability to listen and act on their sad tales, filming them in the faces of the gas monsters, warts on the ass of America.
As to government supporters the problem as Fox points out, is that hydraulic fracturing or fracking “was exempted by the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005 from the United States’ basic environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Across the country, in states such as New York, and Pennsylvania, where drilling is slated to take place in the Delaware River Basin and New York City’s watershed in the Catskills, or in states where it is already occurring.
Fracking in the Delaware River basin would threaten the potable water supply for 17 million people in Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey.
“Natural gas companies have installed hundreds of thousands of rigs in 34 states, drilling into huge shale fields, tight sands or coal bed seams containing gas deposits trapped in the rock. Each well requires the use of fracking fluid – chemical cocktails consisting of 596 chemicals, including carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as one to seven million gallons of water, which are infused with the chemicals.” Just the names of these chemicals will give you chills.
When Fox does the math, “Considering there are approximately 450,000 wells in the U.S., Fox estimates that 40 trillion gallons of chemically infused water have been created by the drilling, much of it left seeping or injected into the ground.”
Now the problem is that this infused water mingles with clean water, inevitably poisoning it, making it dangerous for humans to drink, causing everything from headaches to cancers and other lethal diseases, affecting men, women, children, even animals and plant life which withers and dies off as well. It gives new meaning to “Don’t Drink the Water.”
But the real tragedy is that these victims, these people are tied to the land by generations of family farming or ranching or both. They have no other place or country to go to, no other way of earning a living. And why should they, for the sins of the rampant gas and money-guzzling drillers? Also, if anyone is actually able to secure compensation from the gas companies, they have to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from bringing lawsuits or of telling others of their experiences with natural gas drilling.
This is “hush money” and smacks of the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund with the same kind of deal. Any victim family would forfeit their right to compensation for a lost member if they decided to sue the government or the airlines for that loss. That is both unconstitutional and indicative of an underlying corruption, a massive cover-up by the above to protect their asses. Don’t doubt that for a nanosecond.
Returning to fracking, many victims are so ill and weakened by it that they can hardly do daily chores and spend days in their homes, exhausted, afraid to go out and face more fracking and pumping operations, like fumes rising from streams or wells. In fact, you will see both faucet and stream water burn as a lighter is held to it. Many are fearless and have been standing up to the powers that be, the gas-drilling barons and their vast artillery of fracking equipment which gouges, chops, drills, hammers rock and earth towards water and sets up wells that burn the air day and night, poisoning it too.
This is done with the approval of authorities often in cahoots with drillers for profit, the almighty though sinking fast American buck. And no wonder about that, considering the selling out of millions of US jobs for cheap, offshore labor, or the destruction of our own industries for on-the-cheap slave labor. Those slaves’ countries now own us, another kind of fracking of our industries.
In one instance, Fox filmed families in a rural Colorado community. They could literally light the water flowing from their taps with a cigarette lighter. That’s how much gas was in the flow. It actually exploded in the sink surrounding the kitchen faucet, singeing the hairs on one man’s arms. But we are not talking about one or two cases here. We are talking about entire communities, mostly rural, terrorized by their own water supplies, untold numbers of people who have to import huge tanks of water and filter it to stay alive, avoiding poisoned wells. If this is not a huge conspiracy of corruption, then I’ll eat Fox’s film, frame by frame.
But are you surprised? Is it any wonder? I just read Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson’s amazing article The Spill, The Scandal and the President. It details not only the failure of Obama’s administration to take charge of the BP gas/oil disaster but its collusion with BP which helped it to occur. It details the massive corruption generated by the government Minerals Management Service, now under the aegis of the corrupt Texan Ken Salazar, who heads the Department of the Interior. This “Kenny Boy” was a Bush appointee who Obama picked up, both promising change. The only change that occurred was that everything got worse and led to the BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, currently ongoing.
What’s more, in an interview with Josh Fox, one of the fracking victims, scientist, and MacArthur “Genius Award” fellow Wilma Subra, she warns him of the dangers of arsenic poisoning from drinking groundwater tainted by fracking fluid. She also warns of the government officials on both sides of the issue, John Hanger, for instance, Pennsylvania’s secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, who has a predilection for minimizing fracking’s effects but repeatedly refuses to drink a glass of brownish water from an affected well.
There is the occasional good guy, like Scott Stringer, Manhattan’s borough president, who laments the awful possibility that New York City’s safe, great-tasting water will “become a thing of the past,” polluted as it will be from the Delaware Water Gap’s waters that are piped to the city.
But as you can see, this is not just a review of Fox’s wake-up series. It is an attempt to get the word out and inform the public, which largely, thanks to most entertainment news media, knows little or nothing (like I did) of the horrific dangers of hydraulic fracturing. They are aided and abetted by the short-handedness of local environmental agencies to monitor and regulate the gas industry.
Nevertheless, it does seem that on a macro scale these and other regulatory agencies, from environment to finance, healthcare and defense, from industrial farming to genetic engineering of food, the legislation to protect and enforce our environment, our land, food, water, air, assets, health and DU-drenched defense, have been massively warred upon and destroyed by major corporations, as well as top levels of our government over the last 60 years. Hasn’t America itself turned into a Gasland, a noxious sump of violence expanding its cloud over the planet, poisoning its waters, earth, and people.
I mean Rome is burning, folks, and we have to get off our butts and in gear while our latest Nero fiddles with the wrong people. As to hydraulic fracturing, its dangers have now moved to Congress (good luck), where the lobbyists are trying to block legislation to require the chemicals used in the fracking process to be subject once more to the Safe Drinking Water Act. I mean, how do these lobbyists look themselves in the mirror? And if they don’t, why can’t we just take them out and shoot them like so many animals infected with “mad cow’s disease.” Their minds are sick and infectious.
How could any of those participating in the blockage of legislation to prevent our drinking water from being poisoned not be sick of mind; or those taking bribes to lower the bar for BP and its penny-pinching contractual activities with Halliburton and a slew of other firms. In fact, BP isn’t even a conventional oil-drilling company. Everything thing it does it contracts out, as an oil bank, to reduce costs, reduce safety, and create enormous tragedies, then slide away into the memory hole.
Shoot ’em all I say, at least with a camera. Then take it from there as if they were a herd of brain-infected cows, from top bull down. And thank people like Josh Fox, who pushed a hundred grand aside to go out in his old pickup truck, blowing the whistle via his camera, intelligence and guts to nail the bad guys. These are the kind of people to make the movie called America, not those greedy fools who “love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Kerouac, wherever he is, and the heroes of the American landscape, its people, and my humble self, salute them. Writer/Director/ Co-Producer Josh Fox and his partners: HBO, WOW production, Editor Matthew Sanchez, Producers Trish Adlesic and Molly Grandour. FOOWWWARD, as Kesey’s bus read. Sometimes a great notion can take you a long way to making things right, even winning this war for profit against the earth and its people.
For more information, see HBO Documentaries, Gasland.