Documentary filmmaker discusses consequences of fracking


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The Oscar-nominated director of the American documentary, “Gasland,” came to St. Edward’s University on Oct. 29 to answer questions and discuss his film and firsthand perspective of the impacts of drilling for natural gas.

In May 2008, Josh Fox received a letter from a natural gas company that offered him $100,000 to drill for natural gas on his family’s land in Milanville, Pa.

“The threat of losing everything I valued, my home and my way of life, is what pushed me to make this film,” Fox said.

“Gasland” focuses on communities across the county impacted by drilling for natural gas, particularly a method of drilling known as “hydraulic fracking.”

Professor Peter Beck explained fracking as “shooting water and chemicals to break and let out natural gas trapped in rocks underground.” Beck is an associate professor of environmental science and policy at St. Edward’s.

Fox’s documentary focuses on the risks this method poses, particularly on the contamination of drinking water for a community.

“Even if we are not actually sure if this can be done safely or not,” Beck said, “It doesn’t make sense to risk such a necessity like water for a potential short term gain of some gas.”

“This film is about fracking, but it’s also about a paradigm shift in the world,” Fox said.

Fox thoroughly investigated the method of fracking. He interviewed scientists, politicians and gas industry executives. Towards the end of the documentary, Fox found himself filming a subcommittee as they discussed the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing because of its negative health implications.

“It was very dramatic and effective at calling attention to the problem a lot of people hadn’t thought about,” Beck said.

One student in the audience asked Fox, “How did you experience direct action against fracking?”

“How do I even begin?” Fox said. “Anti-fracking organization in every little place.”

Fox said his first experience took place in Forth Worth, Texas. The first thing that struck him was “a lot of cars.” 

“Politics and oil or gas doesn’t follow the regime of science and the only way to deal with this is through political force.” Fox said, as he explained government’s lack of action on this subject.

As Fox’s appearance came to an end, he pulled out his banjo from its case with a “Don’t Drill” sticker on it and played  a Texas folk song for the audience similar to the song he plays in the beginning of film.