A Gaslander’s View of GasLand

You might be a Gaslander if you try to start your drinking water on fire after watching GasLand.

When I found out GasLand was playing on HBO I thought, “Great. I can write a review.”

Then I watched it. Silly me. I can’t review this film. It’s too personal. I am too emotional. I wept during the film. The truth hurts. Really. Really. Hurts.

Does that make GasLand a good film? No. It makes GasLand a great film. The kind of truth you can’t handle. Josh Fox is a hero for making this film. All of these stories, Dee Hoffmeister’s story, Rick Roles’ story, Lisa Bracken’s story, our stories needed to be told. Now they are. This is our watershed moment.

You can see the trailer and find out more about GasLand here. Reviews can be found at the NY Times, Variety, and indieWIRE. Don’t take their word for it. See GasLand for yourself.

What has me all tied up in knots is the 13-minute segment titled, “48 Hours in Garfield County”. It broke my heart. Not because my friend Lisa Bracken (Journey of the Forsaken) was the star and totally stole the show – I love her – but because it’s my home. And nobody wants to see home the way it was depicted. All too sadly, it’s true.

There have been cutbacks in natural gas drilling in this region since filming ended and the recession began. They aren’t drilling as many new wells. As a result, our air quality has improved which lends itself to a false sense of security. We see and breathe the air. Reaction to foul air is immediate. We can’t see the chemicals in our water. Besides that, the sky is big here and the land and mountains are vast. I don’t have a gas well in my backyard so it’s easy to look the other way – like north to the Flattops where there’s no drilling – as a means of coping. We all have our little survival quirks.

Looking at Garfield County from Josh Fox’s point of view was unnerving. Reality bites. None of it was news to me. He didn’t even tell the half of it – like Battlement Mesa and the Project Rulison site – and it was still a jolt.

Like everyone else, I am sickened by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet what I and many thousands of Gaslanders already know is that for more than five years, gradually, in 34 states across the US, gas and chemicals have been and are oozing into the groundwater and contaminating wells, streams, and watersheds. And they are also vented into the atmosphere causing air pollution. Fox shows gas well drilling for what it is – an ongoing environmental disaster.

A couple omissions stood out to me. During Lisa Bracken’s interview, Fox neglected to reveal that Divide Creek, which has been contaminated by gas well drilling, flows into the Colorado River, the watershed for the entire southwestern US.

Fox also didn’t address side drilling. The reason he made the film was because a gas company wanted to lease the mineral rights on his land in Pennsylvania. In the end he turned them down. The Catch-22 for Fox is side drilling. Or does he even know about side drilling? Well here’s the deal. He can turn down the gas lease. But the gas company can lease the mineral rights from his neighbor, then drill sideways into the gas under Fox’s property. They get the gas and he gets nada. If anything goes awry on his property, like seepage or contamination, he will have a tough time getting compensation from the gas company. Just sayin … They’ve got all the angles covered. Literally. Once the gas company comes knocking, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

When the film ends, most people can turn it off. Around here the effects of gas well drilling seep into our lives in other gruesome ways. GasLand premiered on HBO last week. Rick Roles of Rifle was also featured in the film. On Saturday he found his horse shot and killed.

It would be so easy to get depressed. Instead I want to feel hopeful. If indeed the cowardly proponents of gas well drilling have resorted to shooting horses, as gut-wrenching as that is, it must mean we are winning the argument. Josh Fox has stirred things up round these parts. Since when is muckraking a bad thing?

Maybe we can finally reach our turning point in history. Maybe it’s not too late.

It’s like Lisa says, we have to “stay positive.”

Thank you, Josh Fox.

Please see GasLand. Please tell everyone you know to see it. Help us spread the word.

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