Oscar nomination draws attention to Pa. gas drilling

    A documentary focused on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania and other states has been nominated for an Academy Award.

    Josh Fox’s movie, “Gasland,” has become a rallying point for anti-drilling activists. The film raises questions about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, and features Dimock, Susquehanna County, residents whose water was contaminated by drilling.

    In an interview shortly after the Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, Fox said he’s hoping the nod will boost momentum for increased oversight and drilling moratoriums.

    “These contamination cases and violations match the intensity of drilling in every single area the industry goes. So where you have a lot of drilling, you have a lot of violations. You have a lot of contamination,” he said. “I don’t see how that story is going to be kept out. And the people who are opposed to this, who are trying to advocate for a little bit of truth on this, will not be kept out either.”

    Fox pointed to the anti-drilling protesters at Gov. Tom Corbett’s inauguration as an example of increasing activism on the issue.

    The drilling industry has set up a website challenging Fox’s movie, and former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger has called him “fundamentally dishonest” and a “propagandist.” Fox stands by the film, and maintained he’s “appalled” drillers are challenging its facts, rather than working to increase safety.

    What will he say in his speech if he wins? Fox laughed and said he’s just starting to think about that. “This is about all the grassroots organizations across America that have been fighting this to make a very clear statement. Natural gas is not clean.”

    “Gasland” will go up against four other films for best documentary feature: “Exit through the Gift Shop,” “Inside Job,” “Restrepo” and “Waste Land.” “Inside Job” and “Restrepo,” which focus on the 2008 Wall Street meltdown and the war in Afghanistan, respectively, have each received as much – if not more – media attention as “Gasland” has this year.

    The nomination comes on the same day DEP made public a Jan. 17 incident at a well on Tioga County state forest land.

    “During the well control incident, which began during hydraulic fracturing of the well, fracking fluids and sand discharged from the well into the air. It does not appear that any significant amount of natural gas was released and there was no fire or explosion,” states the DEP release. Inspectors determined the well’s pad liner retained all the fluid that spilled. The investigation is continuing.

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