‘Gasland’ receives Oscar nomination | AspenTimes.com

‘Gasland’ receives Oscar nomination

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy GaslandTheMovieProducer Josh Fox and an unidentified man light the water on fire in this image from Fox's documentary film, "Gasland," which has been nominated for an Oscar.

The controversial documentary “Gasland,” which offers a mostly negative view of impacts from gas drilling in Garfield County and other parts of the U.S., has been nominated for an Oscar.

The film, released last year, has become a kind of rallying point for critics of the industry, who fear the potential negative health effects of living near gas rigs and doubt the industry’s truthfulness on the issue.

The gas industry denies that its activities pose health hazards to people living nearby.

Industry officials regularly cite more than 60 years of drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations, without any proven cases of negative health impacts on nearby residents, as evidence that its operates safely.

The industry’s critics see things differently.

“The industry has gotten away with sweeping things under the carpet for so long,” said Tara Meixsell of New Castle, who did some work on the film. “But they’re making such a mess, they’re running out of carpet.”

The film, which has been aired on HBO and PBS, follows Josh Fox, a New York filmmaker whose family owns a vacation property in northeast Pennsylvania, where a gas drilling company has offered to lease their land.

The lease offer launches Fox on a cross-country exploration of the gas industry, the hazards of drilling, and hydraulic fracturing – a technique for getting at deeply buried deposits of oil and gas.

Among the film’s more intriguing moments are scenes when neighbors of drilling sites show that they can light their tap water on fire. The film’s subjects say drilling has released methane into their water supply.

Meixsell, who introduced Fox to Garfield County locals with stories to tell concerning the gas industry, said the news made her day.

“Everyone is very happy that the film has been recognized in this way,” Meixsell declared. “People are paying attention, finally, to what’s happening.”

The gas industry and its supporters, however, have assailed the film as inaccurate and misleading, arguing that many points in the film are not supported by adequate research.

“While it’s unfortunate there isn’t an Oscar category for propaganda, this nomination is fitting, as the Oscars are aimed at praising pure entertainment among the Hollywood elite,” declared Lee Fuller, executive director of the pro-industry website, “EnergyInDepth.”

Fuller said the industry is dedicated to “responsible, job-creating American oil and natural gas development” by using what he termed the “environmentally-proven” technique of hydraulic fracturing, or frac’ing. He added that the industry and its watchdogs “have a responsibility to appeal to science and facts. This film, however … falls woefully short of these fundamental objectives.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the issuing of permits for wells and other matters pertaining to the industry, has a lengthy critique of the film on the home page of its website [http://cogcc.state.co.us/], under the title, “Gasland Correction Document.”

Meixsell said she hoped the film’s increased fame would alert more people to “the fact that the gas drilling is spreading into much more populated areas.”

Locally, gas drilling companies have targeted areas of relative high population, such as Battlement Mesa, a community of 5,000 or so. The community may soon be host to up to 200 gas wells on as many as 10 surface drilling pads planned by Antero Resources.

And on Silt Mesa, a loosely populated area that surrounds the northern boundaries of the town of Silt, Antero has asked for state authority to significantly increase well density.

At issue for local landowners, as depicted in the film, are the potential adverse human-health effects of living near drilling operations, as well as loss of property value and peace and quiet.

Industry representatives argue that state regulators keep an eye on drilling operations to avoid adverse impacts, and that there has never been proof offered to show direct links between drilling activities and health hazards.

“I’m past the argument of ‘there’s no proof’. I think a landowner should not have to prove why what happens to them, happens to them,” she said, citing skin rashes, nosebleeds, respiratory ailments and other health effects reported by some who live near the drilling rigs.

“Gasland” will go up against four other films for best documentary feature: “Exit through the Gift Shop,” “Inside Job,” “Restrepo” and “Waste Land.”

The winner will be announced during the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 27.


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