Gasland the Movie

0 for 1: Three species of the pronghorn antelope are considered “endangered,” none of which are found anywhere near the Pinedale Anticline. Those are: the Sonoran (Arizona), the Peninsular (Mexico), and the Mexican Pronghorn (also of Mexico). According to the Great Plains Nature Center: “The great slaughter of the late 1800s affected the pronghorns … Only about 12,000 remained by 1915. Presently, they number around one million and the greatest numbers of them are in Wyoming and Montana.”

0 for 2: Only one species of mule deer is considered “endangered”: the Cedros Island mule deer of Mexico (nowhere near Wyoming). The mule deer populations are so significant in Wyoming today that the state has a mule deer hunting season.

0 for 3: The sage grouse does not currently have a place on the endangered species list, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) – and “robust populations of the bird currently exist across the state” of Wyoming, according to the agency. Interestingly, FWS recently issued a press release identifying wind development as a critical threat the sage grouse’s habitat.

That said, producers in the area have taken the lead on efforts to lessen their impact and reduce the number of truck trips required to service their well sites. As part of that project, operators have commissioned a series of independent studies examining additional steps that can be taken to safeguard the Anticline’s wildlife.

(31:32) “In 2004, the EPA was investigating a water contamination incident due to hydraulic fracturing in Alabama. But a panel rejected the inquiry, stating that although hazard materials were being injected underground, EPA did not need to investigate.”

No record of the investigation described by Fox exists, so EID reached out to Dr. Dave Bolin, deputy director of Alabama’s State Oil & Gas Board and the man who heads up oversight of hydraulic fracturing in that state. In an email, he said he had “no recollection” of such an investigation taking place.

That said, it’s possible that Fox is referring to EPA’s study of the McMillian well in Alabama, which spanned several years in the early- to mid-1990s. In 1989, Alabama regulators conducted four separate water quality tests on the McMillian well. The results indicated no water quality problems existed. In 1990, EPA conducted its own water quality tests, and found nothing.

In a letter sent in 1995, then-EPA administrator Carol Browner (currently, President Obama’s top energy and environmental policy advisor) characterized EPA’s involvement with the McMillian case in the following way: “Repeated testing, conducted between May of 1989 and March of 1993, of the drinking water well which was the subject of this petition [McMillian] failed to show any chemicals that would indicate the presence of fracturing fluids. The well was also sampled for drinking water quality, and no constituents exceeding drinking water standards were detected.”

For information on what actually did happen in Alabama during this time, and how it’s relevant to the current conversation about the Safe Drinking Water Act, please download the fact sheet produced last year by the Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama.

(1:28:06) “Just a few short months after this interview, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suffered the worst budget cuts in history, amounting to over 700 staff either being fired or having reduced hours and 25 percent of its total budget cut.”

DEP press release, issued January 28, 2010: “Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today that the commonwealth is strengthening its enforcement capabilities. At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Environmental Protection will begin hiring 68 new personnel who will make sure that drilling companies obey state laws and act responsibly to protect water supplies. DEP also will strengthen oil and gas regulations to improve well construction standards.”

Recycling Discredited Points from the Past

Weston Wilson (EPA “whistleblower”): “One can characterize this entire [natural gas] industry as having a hundred year history of purchasing those they contaminate.” (33:36)

Mr. Wilson, currently on staff at EPA’s Denver office, was not part of the team of scientists and engineers that spent nearly five years studying hydraulic fracturing for EPA. That effort, released in the form of a landmark 2004 study by the agency, found “no evidence” to suggest any relationship between hydraulic fracturing and the contamination of drinking water.

Wilson has a well-documented history of aggressive opposition to responsible resource and mineral development. Over his 35-year career, Mr. Wilson has invoked “whistleblower” status to fight dam construction in Colorado, oil and gas development in Montana, and the mining of gold in Wyoming.

Wilson in his own words: “The American public would be shocked if they knew we make six figures and we basically sit around and do nothing.”

Dunkard Creek: Fox includes images of dead fish along a 35-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in Washington Co., Pa.; attributes that event to natural gas development. (01:23:15)

Fox’s attempt to blame the Dunkard Creek incident on natural gas exploration is contradicted by an EPA report – issued well before GasLand was released – which blamed the fish kill on an algal bloom, which itself was fed by discharges from coal mines.

EPA report: “Given what has been seen in other states and the etiology of this kill, we believe the toxin from this algae bloom led to the kill of fish, mussels, and salamanders on Dunkard Creek. … The situation in Dunkard Creek should be considered a chronic exposure since chloride levels were elevated above the criteria for long periods of time.” (issued 11/23/09)

Local PA newspaper calls out Fox: “One glaring error in the film is the suggestion that gas drilling led to the September fish kill at Dunkard Creek in Greene County. That was determined to have been caused by a golden algae bloom from mine drainage from a [mine] discharge.” (Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter, 6/5/10)

Mike Markham: Fox blames flammable faucet in Fort Lupton, Colo. on natural gas development

But that’s not true according to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). “Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic [naturally occurring] in origin. … There are no indications of oil & gas related impacts to water well.” (complaint resolved 9/30/08, signed by John Axelson of COGCC)

Context from our friends at ProPublica: “Drinking water with methane, the largest component of natural gas, isn’t necessarily harmful. The gas itself isn’t toxic — the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t even regulate it — and it escapes from water quickly, like bubbles in a soda.” (Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, 4/22/09)

Lisa Bracken: Fox blames methane occurrence in West Divide Creek, Colo. on natural gas development.

That assertion has also been debunked by COGCC, which visited the site six separate times over 13 months to confirm its findings: “Stable isotopes from 2007 consistent with 2004 samples indicting gas bubbling in surface water features is of biogenic origin.” (July 2009, COGCC presentation by Margaret Ash, environmental protection supervisor)

Email from COGCC supervisor to Bracken: “Lisa: As you know since 2004, the COGCC staff has responded to your concerns about potential gas seepage along West Divide Creek on your property and to date we have not found any indication that the seepage you have observed is related to oil and gas activity.” (email from COGCC’s Debbie Baldwin to Bracken, 06/30/08)

More from that email: “These samples have been analyzed for a variety of parameters including natural gas compounds (methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane, hexanes), heavier hydrocarbon compounds including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX), stable isotopes of methane, bacteria (iron related, sulfate reducing, and slime), major anions and cations, and other field and laboratory tests. To date, BTEX compounds have not been detected in any of the samples.”

Calvin Tillman: Fox interviews mayor of DISH, Texas; blames natural gas development, transport for toxins in the air, benzene in blood.

Tillman in the press: “Six months ago, nobody knew that facilities like this would be spewing benzene. Someone could come in here and look at us and say, ‘You know what? They’ve sacrificed you. You’ve been sacrificed for the good of the shale.’” (Scientific American, 3/30/10)

A little more than a month later, Texas Dept. of State Health Services debunks that claim: “Biological test results from a Texas Department of State Health Services investigation in Dish, Texas, indicate that residents’ exposure to certain contaminants was not greater than that of the general U.S. population.” (DSHS report, May 12, 2010)

More from the agency: “DSHS paid particular attention to benzene because of its association with natural gas wells. The only residents who had higher levels of benzene in their blood were smokers. Because cigarette smoke contains benzene, finding it in smokers’ blood is not unusual.”


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