Film challenges safety of U.S. shale gas drilling

Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:47pm EDT
 
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new documentary purporting to expose the hazards of onshore natural gas drilling illustrates its point with startling images of people setting fire to water flowing from faucets in their homes.

"GasLand," which premiers on cable's HBO on June 21, fuels the debate over shale gas and the extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and diluted chemicals into shale rock, breaking it apart to free the gas.

It comes at a time of heightened environmental awareness and scrutiny of the energy industry due to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Advocates promote shale gas as an abundant and relatively clean source of energy within the United States but critics including "GasLand" director Josh Fox assert there are environmental and health risks.

Fox, a Pennsylvania playwright, calls the industry's contention that such drilling is harmless too good to be true. He started asking questions about when his family was offered $100,000 plus royalties to allow hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," on their property.

"I don't think it's a gold mine. I think it's a trap," Fox said. He turned down the offer but many neighbors took the money.

The documentary traces Fox's cross-country journey and includes interviews with families who signed leases with the gas industry and now regret it.

In Colorado, Fox shows families setting tap water alight due to what they say is gas that entered the water during the drilling process. Colorado authorities ruled out that scenario at one of the homes where Fox filmed.   Continued...

 
<p>Director of the film "Gasland," Josh Fox, poses for a portrait while discussing the film in New York, June 1, 2010. "GasLand" fuels the debate over shale gas and the extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and diluted chemicals into shale rock, breaking it apart to free the gas. It comes at a time of heightened environmental awareness and scrutiny of the energy industry due to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Picture taken June 1, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>