Tonight, HBO premiered the documentary Gasland - a film about the impacts of natural gas drilling across the United States. Director/producer and Pennsylvania native Josh Fox has been touring the country showcasing the film and urging lawmakers to act. Unfortunately, the movie is filled with half-truths, inaccuracies, and occasionally outright lies (or as the Patriot News says, "Not everything in the film’s narration is precisely accurate.")
Of course, drilling represents some risk to the environment, but the documentary is clearly out to demonize the gas industry at the expense of thousands of jobs and millions in new revenue for the state.
Here are just a few of the most famous myths perpetuated in the film and debunked by our recent policy brief on natural gas:
- Myth: Natural Gas Drilling Contaminates Water - The safety of hydraulic fracturing is well documented, with zero confirmed cases of groundwater contamination in 1 million applications over 60 years. According to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Oil and Gas Management director, we’ve never seen an impact to fresh groundwater directly from fracking.
- Myth: DEP can’t monitor the new drilling - Pennsylvania increased permit fees approximately 1,600% to fund additional inspectors. This has allowed the Pennsylvania DEP to hire more than 100 new field inspectors and open a new field office in Scranton.
- Myth: No one knows what goes into fracking fluid - Pennsylvania laws require companies to disclose all chemicals used in the fracking process, but not the specific formula, as that information is considered proprietary. A complete list is available at DEP's website. The majority of the fluid, over 98%, is water and sand, and according to the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), most additives present low to very low risks to human health and the environment.
- Myth: Hydraulic Fracturing is not well regulated The Marcellus Shale falls under eight federal and eleven Pennsylvania acts or laws which regulate the impacts of drilling. Before a well is even drilled, thousands of pages of documentation must be filed and all locations are regularly examined by industry and regulatory inspectors.
Here are a few more myths debunked by Energy in Depth:
- Myth: The Dunkard Creek fish kill was caused was by natural gas drilling. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the West Virginia Department of Environment (DEP) ruled out natural gas as the cause of the fish kill. Instead, they found pollution resulted from coal mine drainage as high chloride levels were present in the creek for long periods of time.
- Myth: Residents of Dish Texas suffered from illnesses due to pollution from nearby drilling. Recently, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the results of its own testing of Dish residents, and discovered that residents' exposure to certain contaminants was not greater than that of the general U.S. population.
- Half-truth: The 2005 energy bill exempts the oil and natural gas industries from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and other environmental regulations. Hydraulic fracturing has never been regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Moreover, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 earned the support of nearly three-quarters of the U.S. Senate (74 "yea" votes), including Ken Salazar and then-senator Barack Obama.
For an accurate look at the benefits and disadvantages of natural gas drilling and a severance tax, read the full policy brief: Pennsylvania's Natural Gas Boom. And for a more detailed debunking of the film, see Energy in Depth's excellent analysis.
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The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.