Energy industry rips ‘Gasland Part II’

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Energy industry critics say environmental activist Josh Fox’s documentary “Gasland Part II” misleads audiences by continuing to blame hydraulic fracturing for groundwater contamination without evidence.

“When you take away the pyrotechnics of the sequel, all you’re left with is two hours of bad excuses, followed by worse excuses, for what was wrong with the original,” Simon Lomax, research director for Energy In Depth, a research and public outreach campaign started by the oil and gas industry, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The much-hyped sequel mostly reiterates claims made in the first “Gasland” and spends time targeting politicians and regulators who Fox argues have been bought by industry.

“In Josh Fox’s sequel, ‘Gasland Part II,’ we see more of the same falsehoods about hydraulic fracturing,” Christopher Warren, spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research, told TheDC News Foundation. “Up to his old tricks, Fox again misleads viewers to believe that hydraulic fracturing causes groundwater contamination.”

However, Fox did try to revive the most famous scene from his first film, the flaming faucet, this time depicting a man lighting the contents of his hose on fire.

The flaming hose was determined to be a hoax by a Texas court, the Washington Free Beacon reported Monday. It was a plan devised by Texas environmental activist Alisa Rich who told a Texas homeowner to “intentionally attach[ed] a garden hose to a gas vent — not a water line” and light it on fire.

“The only scene that anyone remembered from the original ‘Gasland’ was the ‘flaming faucet,’ and it was exposed as a dishonest stunt,” Lomax added. “The ‘flaming hose’ in the sequel is a bigger, even more deceptive stunt, designed to generate some excitement for a really boring, self-indulgent and fictional piece of filmmaking.”

The film doubled-down on previously made claims about water contamination in places like Dimock, Penn., and Pavillion, Wyo., which have been cast into doubt.

Recently, Environmental Protection Agency officials dropped plans to issue a report on whether or not fracking is causing groundwater contamination in Pavillion. The town of Dimock was also cleared as safe by the EPA last year.

“Despite the film’s scare tactics, ‘Gasland Part II ‘actually shows that hydraulic fracturing is safe. Much to Fox’s chagrin, there are still no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing,” Warren added. “Hydraulic fracturing remains the driving force behind America’s recent energy renaissance.”

The documentary also criticizes the oil and gas industry for special exemptions they receive from federal environmental laws which allow them to avoid disclosing what chemicals they use in the fracking process.

However, the liberal Daily Kos points out that there are no such categorical exemptions — Fox calls it the “Halliburton Loophole” — under federal law:

“Josh Fox’s claim that the oil and gas industry has some sort of categorical exemption from regulation and that hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas industry process equipment and facilities are exempted from regulation under the Federal Clean Air Act is fabrication and erroneous conflation,” the post reads.

Many oil and gas companies have also taken proactive steps to disclose to the public what chemicals are in fracking fluid, publishing such information on the website, which ten states now use as an official state chemical disclosure database.

Fox has also been called out for making false claims regarding the safety of oil and gas wells, claiming that the Society of Petroleum Engineers found that 35 percent of the world’s wells are leaking.

The SPE denied ever making such a claim:

“The actual quote from Mr. Fox on the Daily Show was that the ‘Society of Petroleum Engineers says that 35% of the world’s wells are leaking,'” an SPE spokeswoman told the Daily Kos. “Neither SPE, nor anyone representing SPE, has ever made the claim that 35% of the world’s (oil and gas) wells are leaking. We have no basis for making such a determination.”

Fox’s film also portrays former EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz as an environmental hero who was subject to a smear campaign by fossil fuel proponents. Armendariz resigned from the EPA last year, Fox says, but he neglects to mention the reason for Armendariz’s departure from the EPA.

Last year, a video surfaced of Armendariz comparing EPA enforcement tactics to Roman crucifixions.

“It was kinda like how the Romans used to conquer those villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years,” Armendariz said. “You make examples out of people who, in this case, are not complying with the law. Hit them as hard as you can and make examples out of them.”

“That is why Fox has embarrassed himself badly in states like Illinois and California, where he believed screening the sequel and lobbying elected officials would generate support for a hydraulic fracturing ban,” Lomax added. “Instead, they voted overwhelmingly against a ban and in favor of continued domestic energy production. That’s because the facts show producing more energy at home makes good economic and environmental sense.”

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