NEWS BLOG: A couple of fracking films worth watching

BY JEREMY MOULE

Most people probably think of “Gasland” when they think of fracking documentaries. But really, it’s just one of several good films on the topic.

This week, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a couple of them. One of them, “The Sky is Pink,” is a free, short film put together by “Gasland” director Josh Fox. It’s essentially Fox’s critical response to the fracking plan floated by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Under the plan, high-volume hydraulic fracturing would be allowed in the deepest parts of the Marcellus Shale – in simple terms, the Southern Tier counties – and only in communities that approve of the technique.

The other film, “Split Estate,” is from 2009, which means it predates “Gasland.”  It’s based in Colorado and, as the title implies, it deals heavily with the legal concept of split estates. That’s where one person owns the surface rights to a piece of property and the federal government or someone else owns the subsurface mineral, oil, or gas rights. As the documentary points out, that means that sometimes drilling rigs unexpectedly pop up near people’s homes. And those people have to deal with consequences like contaminated water.

Whether the split-estate scenario exists or is pervasive in New York, I’m not sure. New York does, however, have a compulsory integration law (a Department of Environmental Conservation fact sheet is available here). The law is complicated, but it can force mineral-rights owners into gas leases when a driller has mineral rights for surrounding properties. The film serves as a broader cautionary tale about how some people benefit when a well is imposed somewhere, but others suffer. For that, it’s worth checking out.

One comment

  1. Tom Janowski · · Reply

    My hometown newspaper, the Elmira Star Gazette, is reporting another “accident”–a spill–at a fracking pad in Bradford County, PA. 4700 gallons of hydrochloric acid was released from a truck and found its way into the tributary of a nearby creek.

    I guess I just don’t get it. All NY eyes should be on the fracking in Pennsylvania. Thanks to Josh Fox and others, the spotlight is shining bright. Yet the gas drilling companies don’t seem to mind the spotlight and they don’t even bother to put on a good show. We’re told fracking is safe in those slick Chesapeake commercials but this company and others aren’t putting much effort is showing the world that fracking is safe. Instead these companies are showing the world the true story. Safety is expensive and time consuming. Gas companies don’t want to waste time or money on safety and it shows.

    I can’t help thinking that the topic of bullying in school is closely related to hydrofracking, with the gas companies and politicians as the bullies and the average citizen and the environment as the victims.

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