Ever since theater director-turned-filmmaker Josh Fox was approached five years ago with an unexpected offer of $100,000 for the natural gas drilling rights to his property in the Delaware River Basin, on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, he has been on a mission to investigate and expose the environmental risks of hydraulic facturing. His first film, "Gasland," debuted at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize, and made its HBO debut later that year. The film was subsequently shown in more than 30 countries to an estimated 50 million viewers. In addition to an Oscar® nomination for Best Documentary Feature, "Gasland" won an Emmy® for Best Nonfiction Directing and was nominated for three other Emmys®. As a result of his activism, Fox was awarded the 2010 Lennon Ono Grant for Peace by Yoko Ono.
GASLAND PART II begins with the 2012 State of the Union Address, in which President Obama declares his support for the safe development of natural gas production, something Fox and the anti-fracking community believe is impossible. Beneath the continental U.S., some contend, lies a vast underground ocean of natural gas waiting to be harvested, with the potential to supply energy to millions of Americans.
However, as Fox explained in "Gasland," the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is exempted by the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005 from the United States' most basic environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, and poses many environmental threats to water and air.
In "Gasland," Fox discovered tap water so contaminated it could be set on fire right out of the tap, chronically ill residents with similar symptoms in drilling areas across the country, and huge pools of toxic waste that kill livestock and vegetation. In GASLAND PART ll, he revisits families whose lives have been upended from living near fracking wells and introduces new characters. Fox interviews politicians who have been trying to stop fracking and help the people affected by it, as well as experts who support Fox's concerns about the dangers of fracking and the urgent need for a shift to truly clean renewable energy.
Fox returns to Dimock, Pa., Pavilion, Wyo., and Dish, Tex. to see how the residents are faring in their fight to secure clean water from local governments and the E.P.A., and ventures to Australia to see what is happening outside the U.S. as fracking becomes a global practice.
In order to understand the potential dangers of fracking, Fox interviews Tony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering, Cornell University, a former researcher for the gas industry. Ingraffea, who was named one of Time magazine's People Who Matter in 2011, explains why in his opinion, fracking can never be done safely. He illustrates how cement in wells can be vulnerable to cracking and that once it has cracked, methane gas can migrate into any underground source of drinking water.
In GASLAND PART ll, Fox also argues that new choices must be made about where the nation gets its energy. He talks to Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, who argues that the U.S. could stop drilling for coal, oil and natural gas altogether and bundle together the renewable resources of wind, high-concentrated solar power, geothermal power, hydroelectric power and tidal power to handle the country's current energy needs.
But Fox's biggest concern in GASLAND PART ll is perhaps his belief that "the enormously powerful oil and gas industry has not only contaminated our water, air and land, but also our democracy."
Towards the film's conclusion, Fox is arrested trying to film a congressional hearing regarding the E.P.A. results in Pavilion. But as the fight to protect the earth from extreme energy development seems even more challenging, Fox remains determined and undeterred.
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GASLAND PART II is directed and produced by Josh Fox; produced by Trish Adlesic; produced by Deborah Wallace; co-producer, Matthew Sanchez; cinematography, Josh Fox and Matthew Sanchez; editor, Matthew Sanchez. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
Docs Summer Series 2013