"Gasland" Premiere: Must-See Exposé of Industrial Gas Production's Risks Airs Tonight on HBO

At 9 pm tonight, Sundance award-winning documentary “Gasland,” directed by Josh Fox, premieres on HBO.  This gripping film vividly portrays the ugly side of industrial natural gas production in America, bringing to the screen the stories of ordinary folks whose lives have been turned upside down by drilling gone wrong.  “Gasland” exposes the reality that, while natural gas is a cleaner burning fossil fuel (emitting about half the greenhouse gas pollutants of coal), its production is frequently not clean.

Whether it’s an inadequate regulatory structure; insufficient oversight; conflicted public officials; an industry that repeatedly invokes the mantra: “it’s safe, we know what we’re doing, we don’t need any more regulation, trust us”; or serious environmental and health impacts, the comparisons to the Gulf of Mexico spill are both inevitable and inescapable.

“Gasland” shows us in stark terms the extent to which the failings in our nation’s approach to regulating fossil fuel development – whether it’s off-shore oil or on-shore natural gas – result in very real harm; harm for which adequate remedy and redress are maddeningly unavailable for many.

Please tune in tonight to watch this important film.  Then visit the “Gasland” website – www.GaslandtheMovie.com – to find out how you can contact your elected officials to demand better regulatory oversight of gas development at the federal and state levels.

And if you live in New York, take additional action now to tell your state legislators that we must have a moratorium on any new gas production using controversial hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”  NY still has a chance to follow a different model from those of the states Fox visits in “Gasland” (including PA, CO, WY, TX, LA), and to say we are going to ask – and answer – the tough questions about whether, and if so how, gas production’s impacts can be adequately regulated before allowing a single new drill to break ground.

One final, but very important, footnote: As I have written before, residents of New York City should not believe that the danger to their drinking water supply is gone.  All state regulators have done to date is say that they will not consider particular impacts to the NYC and Syracuse watersheds (both of which enjoy so-called federal Filtration Avoidance Determinations, which means they don’t need to filter their municipal water supplies) from sedimentation and runoff at this time.  As a consequence, for now, any company wanting to drill in those watersheds would need to go through an individual environmental review process.  This is not the equivalent of a de facto moratorium in those places.

First, the state has not said that once it completes its “generic” environmental review process for the rest of the state it won’t go back and do so for these watersheds.  Once the generic environmental study exists for the rest of the state, it would not be an unduly heavy burden for the state to do a further generic study for those watersheds to examine the limited additional issues of sedimentation and runoff.  This is a critical point.  The state has gone to great pains to say there is no increased risk to these watersheds from fracking, chemical use or any other aspect of this heavily industrial activity.  Nor, for that matter, would it necessarily be a heavy burden for a gas company to do an “individual environmental review” looking at the narrow issues of sedimentation and runoff even if the state does not opt to do a further generic examination for those watersheds.

Finally, moving to complete the generic environmental study without the political and scientific complications presented by threats to the drinking water supply for more than 9 million New Yorkers may only make it that much easier to rush forward with drilling in the remainder of the state on the basis of the fatally flawed draft environmental impact study.  And this could, in turn, smooth the way for drilling in the NYC and Syracuse watersheds down the line.

So residents of NYC take note: your action is also needed to tell the state to slow down, do the science right, and prevent drilling from happening anywhere in the state until it has been proved it can be done safely.

* In response to some comments that have been posted referring to industry's "Debunking of 'Gasland'" document, stay tuned to www.Gaslandthemovie.com, where the film's director and producers will be posting a point-by-point "debunking of the debunking."