Thursday, June 17, 2010

Film challenges safety of U.S. shale gas drilling

Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:19am EDT

"Faucet water ignites in show of shale gas dangers

Industry says film is oversimplified and exaggerates
By Edith Honan

NEW YORK, June 17 (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.

"The film started with just a basic inquiry into what was happening with gas drilling," Fox told Reuters in an interview. "Quickly, though, I found out that it was a complete disaster for all the places that I visited."

The film, Fox's first feature-length documentary, won the Special Jury Prize for documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival." More>>>>

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