Gasland, a documentary about natural gas fracking, is up for an Oscar on Sunday at the 83rd annual Academy Awards. It has already won a Sundance Film Festival prize, for revealing potential groundwater contamination and health threats to residents from the rapidly growing practice in which volumes of chemicals and water are pumped underground to fracture shale and obtain its natural gas. The documentary focused national attention on the pending expansion of fracking in New York State, where legislators and environmental regulators are battling to impose a moratorium on fracking in the expansive Marcellus Shale formation.
Scientific American got its hands on a pre-release copy of the film months before it aired on HBO, and the movie convinced me to write a feature article investigating the claims of fracking critics and promoters. After doing my own research and interviews, it became apparent that, like most documentaries, Gasland revealed surprising facts, amplified a few, and chose to gloss over a couple others. What writer and producer Josh Fox did achieve, regardless, was to blow the lid off the secrecy that kept most local residents, not to mention scientists and regulators, in the dark about the chemicals used in fracking and their possible effects. And he certainly put me on the reporting trail.
Image: Courtesy of Gasland