On Thursday, February 21, Bob Arrington* watched FrackNation so you don’t have to. He attended a screening at the Avalon Theater in Grand Junction. Thank you Bob! Here is his review:
Last [Thursday] night my wife and I went to dinner and a movie in Grand Junction. We had free tickets, courtesy of Kirby Wynn, to the showing of FrackNation. I felt it is always important, in an issue, to hear what the other side has to say.
We had a nice dinner at Appleby’s, sirloin for me and chicken with shrimp for my better half from their “Dinner for Two” menu apppetizer and 2 entrees with choice of 2 sides for $20. From the restaurant, we then made our way over to the Avalon theater.
Upon entering, we ran into David Ludlam and his lovely wife. David is a spokesman for the West Slope Oil and Gas Association, one of the groups sponsoring the film along with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and KREX 5. Once inside the auditorium, we also found out from a big banner, FOX 4 was evidently a sponsor.
However, during the conversation with David, it came out that he has been the target of virulent verbal attacks, including death threats. I related to him how Dave Devanney was also targeted on YouTube with obscene and violent threats. It seems to me anonymity can make a guise and hide-behind for those that are chicken-hearted to put their name out there on their cowardly “free speech” intimidation, and intimidation is becoming too easy for some people.
But I digress, back to the movie presentation.
At ticket show time, an MC took over running through all the kudos and soliciting applause for 5 to 7 people running around the auditorium for organizing the event. He then announced he would like to have the students, up in the balcony, come down to the main floor and sit in the front rows. It was a group of high school students, as he said later, that would be able to ask questions of Ann McElhinney at the end of the film. Finally, he introduced Ann McElhinney. Ann, who is married to Phelim McAleer [FrackNation Director], then put a 10-minute spiel of starting out concerned about the environment and came to “see” the light. How she discovered “environmentalists are idiots” which invoked applause. It also said that the play would be to a friendly house. This comment, would be a “trademark” of many sweeping generalizations that would appear in the film, and in which, McAleer would be the chief antagonist.
The reason I say antagonist is because, as we find out in the film, he will interview and set the stage to confront the interviewees if they are deemed opposing, somehow in some way, to energy development. All the while he is weaving a theme of “Josh Fox caused this” [Director of Gasland] and implications of some nefarious plot or scheme of fracking opposition. Early in the film, a picture of Josh Fox with a cigarette dangling from his lips is presented. It is re-presented several times in the film to add emphasis to some point or another. All the cases presented were presented as anti-fracking efforts whether it involved fracking or not. Examples would be the rise of breast cancer rates in Texas was an attack on fracking regardless that it centered on air emissions from well operations and density of wells. The film cited an AP story, Komen Foundation, Texas University, and Texas Railroad Commission as showing Fox lied about the cancer reports.1
Attacks on fracking caused the air emission studies to be called for and performed in Dish, Texas by the Mayor, whereas, the complaints in Dish were against the leakage and air contamination of compressor stations and not fracking. In this segment there was also reference to Alsia Rich whose firm did air sampling at Dish and later supported Steve Lipsky who had gas in his water well. The film showed a questioning of Rich about her field of expertise in specific studies. The questions pointed to specific fields which she had to answer no, but not her overall field. She holds a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering with a Master of Public Health and has studied many of the topics, but is degreed as a generalist for the many; therefore she had to hesitate to answer truthfully on the nomenclatures. An old lawyer stunt to discredit a witness.
There was a confrontational interview with a Delaware River Commission member, that was terminated by the official, after she told McAleer for the 4th or 5th time that she didn’t know a rally she spoke at was also used as a fund raiser while he waived a file folder that he claimed it was “proof” it was a fund raiser. You would note she wasn’t denying what he was saying, but she was saying, if it was, she didn’t know it. His persistence in badgering led to a termination of the interview, which seemed apparent to me, was his goal. The exemplification is that the Delaware River Commission wasn’t concerned with fracking; it was concerned with the waste treatment effluents of produced water being run through waste treatment plants that could not remove radioactivity, salts, and heavy metals. This lady was not the sole decider of the Commission’s action.
Finally McAleer’s interview with a Pennsylvania man’s complaint of water contamination did deal with fracking. The man claimed, at times, his water ran brown and cloudy. McAleer asked to see some and the man could not run any at that time. I was thinking to myself, this could be a point that when the fracking was happening, the shale was under immense pressure, which if it was affecting water, that would be the time for “brown” water. Since the shale is fracked in stages, it could be a “here, gone, here” situation. Later, McAleer returns to badger the people for “brown” water, which could be hard to produce if fracking were completed. He further adds footage about the EPA telling the couple that their water is drinkable. The EPA, while okaying water in many of the Dimock areas, did find elevated levels, but they were below “unacceptable” levels and methane is not considered contaminated other than their often used warning of “vent the house if using large amounts of water.”
The film did spend considerable time outlining the plight of farmers that were going under economically, needing the royalty and/or mineral money to survive. And it should be noted that some of these families were organizing against “environmentalists” who were their neighbors. The film showed about 25 to 30 of these hardship people with political type yard signs made up by some print shop, displaying them at home. It also showed them gathering together for a rally with other signs about their complaints. Unlike other grassroots groups of people with marker pen signs and vivid colors, these were all print shop signs made up of uniform black block printing except for the larger font banner sign. My wife, who spent her young years on a ranch, was appalled by the run down condition of many of these farms shown. She was particularly dismayed by the farmer feeding his hogs on the ground in front of a barn in disrepair and broken down fences. With lumber and trash lying around, she said, to the effect, a hammer and nails would do wonders for his place and he must be the laziest farmer on earth. At least, he could put together some boards to make a trough for the hogs to feed.
Then McAleer, the semi-investigative journalist, showed through again. He went to Josh’s backyard country and showed some people that were pleased with the mineral extraction and showed how they had negotiated their own version of lease terms. McAleer made a point of some typo glitches in the banner of the lease format. He then gleefully showed film of Josh Fox holding up a lease with the same typo glitches, the lease Josh wouldn’t sign. Without knowing what fill-in terms or if the body had been changed in the lease, then I would guess McAleer’s point was Josh was not in accordance with some neighbors. But then that was already known. Besides, McAleer was ready to point out importantly, Fox only owned 19 acres.
FrackNation had many side points to make with discussions with several experts. One an aged college professor was able to show that frack mixtures with long chemical names of components shared that feature of long names with cabbage that had a couple. Cabbage is okay, then frack chemicals are okay was shown. A geologic expert discounted the danger of induced earthquakes by fracking by showing other activity that was more likely to cause problems, including geothermal. McAleer then made a trip to California to show a geothermal plant that uses the San Andreas geology to tap earth’s heat for energy. He also showed a drilling area park that people used to exercise in clean air. I was drawn to the background view of Los Angeles bathed in smog behind and below the park, thinking of the recent studies showing oil and gas relationships to that tainted soup. I, too, would have sought the high ground to exercise.
He showed a bird kill by a wind generator.
Toward the end of the film we got to another point, that he had set up with a park bench interview about Russia’s concern with marketing of European natural gas and the conspiracy of Russia to control national economies with gas and oil. He adds credence, while decrying European countries that are banning fracking, by going to Poland to interview and old lady whose gas bill is higher than her electric bill. She tells of a ring her late husband gave her with the admonishment “to sell this last!” after pointing to treasured pictures and wall hangings saying she might have to sell them to pay utilities. They follow her to the grocery store where she buys some things. Her pet dog follows them and patiently waits, after shopping, while she feeds some birds with her purchase. I took their subtitles of the conversation at their word, but I would recommend the old lady do away with her gas stove for an electric one, because her electric was much lower and if gas was used for heating, it is included in her building rent, like elsewhere in the world, big housing buildings provide heat and hot water supply for economy and appeal. McAleer’s point was Russia controls Poland through the gas supply instead of troops.
An interesting feature of his travels was an Indiana Jones style of tracing routes; but lacking technique of an airplane over a map, they used a grease pencil on a map. McAleer also made a big point of raising funds for filming (over $250k) by on-line donations.
Overall, the film made Josh Fox the lynch pin of the anti-frack movement and evidently this husband and wife team of McAleer and McElhinney feel that discredit to him will stop the movement of myriads of grassroots people with their own anecdotal experiences.
During the film there were several times McAleer tried to engage Fox, and with anybody dealing with a paparazzi approach, they would not engage nor did Fox. In a final scene, the Mc’s attempted, by rushing, chasing and yelling, to engage Fox at a speaking engagement at a museum. The museum staff grabbed the cell phone Ann Mc was using and gave it back to her after both were escorted out of the building. My opinion was of very boorish behavior of the Mc’s reflecting a rude, aggressive and confrontational style. This brought back to my mind the discussion my wife and I had with David and his wife. It may be a code of gonzo journalism, but it is not acceptable reporting or behavior style.
½ ♦ Rating out of 5 ♦
1. Fox cited two sources for his information in answer to critics on this issue. I have included as an appendix for your perusal. They were the source of many news articles and follow-up testing, studies and activity that were on going when Fox made his documentary.
The Texas Cancer Registry is a statewide, population-based registry that collects data to measure the state’s cancer burden, as well as its progress in preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer among residents. In 2009, data from the registry showed that six counties in the western Dallas-Fort Worth area had the highest incidence of invasive breast cancer in the state. These counties are Tarrant (which includes the city of Fort Worth), Denton, Wise, Parker, Hood, and Johnson. These 6 counties cover about 5,000 square miles and have a combined population of nearly 3 million people. Registry data also indicated that access to mammography screening in these counties was limited and that screening rates for breast cancer were low.
*Bob Arrington is a 5th generation Coloradan, and has lived in Garfield County since 1994. Bob was vice president of Battlement Mesa Service Association until January 2013. In 2009, he introduced a resolution to make oil & gas mitigation a concern of the board, but it was defeated in workshop. Since 2010, he has served as the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB), where he has carried forward citizens’ concerns and complaints. As a Western Colorado Congress Director-at-Large since 2011, Bob has made numerous trips to Denver to lobby on energy issues and legislation, including input on fracking disclosure and setback rules. Bob also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens and has participated in Northwest Colorado oil and gas forums and appeared before the Garfield County Board of Commissioners promoting issues of oil and gas impacts such as HB1041’s land use regulation He petitioned for a health study, as well as being a stakeholder in the Health Impact Assessment and Environmental Health and Monitoring Study. He has been a presenter on EPA air quality hearings in Denver. And Bob is a champion for the current Garfield County/CSU air quality study.