What's 'Gasland' all about?
'Gasland' is my road trip across the country investigating a particular kind of natural gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing. In May of 2008, I was asked to lease my family's property for natural gas drilling. I live in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, right on the border of New York State. And I found out that about fifty percent of New York State and about sixty-five percent of Pennsylvania are over a formation called The Marcellus Shale, which contains, embedded in the rock, natural gas. And a new technology had opened up that let companies pulverize this rock and get natural gas out of it. So when I got this letter in the mail offering me one hundred thousand dollars as a signing bonus and then a royalty thereafter, I went to investigate.
Where I live is a pristine watershed area. That watershed area in New York State and in Pennsylvania is the combined water source for millions of people in New York City, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey, and some people in Delaware. When I started to investigate this process, I went to a nearby town-Dimock, Pennsylvania - where they were already drilling, and found all manner of insanity breaking loose. People had natural gas in their water-they could light it on fire; there were chemicals and contamination in their water; their animals getting sick, their kids were getting sick. And so when I saw what it meant - that this would essentially industrialize the entire region-I decided to take this cross-country trip to other places that this type of drilling was happening.
In 2005, the United States Congress, compelled by Dick Cheney, exempted this form of natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act; when that happened, it exploded nationwide. And these huge drilling fields opened up what they call "unconventional" drilling. And so it was easy to go from state to state and hear the stories and hear people's issues. And everywhere I went it was the same problems: water contamination, air pollution; people getting sick, flammable water, chemicals in the water. This process was creating havoc on the landscape, and on people's lives. And so the film is me being approached to do this, and then trying to investigate, and finding a nationwide crisis.
The people I interviewed were unbelievable. People who have had their lives completely taken over by natural gas drilling, literally, right off their front porch, and who have had no recourse to any of the environmental laws; and they know something is terribly wrong with what's going on.
It sounds like it was a cathartic experience for you?
Absolutely cathartic; I mean, when I was making it, I started off with just one or two people that I was gonna interview. And then they told two friends and they told two friends and it spiraled. So I think that there's a huge number of people across the country that are waiting to see this. I hope it will be cathartic for the nation.
You know, the natural gas industry has promoted itself as a "clean-burning" alternative to coal. But what I know is that natural gas is actually competing with renewable energy, which is a lot cleaner. And the extraction of natural gas is causing havoc all across America. At the same time, the fact that it's a fossil fuel and the fact that so much natural gas is released into the air when they do the drilling, it's debatable as to whether or not it's better than coal. So, it's a scary thing, and I think it's gonna challenge a lot of people opinions about what natural gas is-or at least domestically produced natural gas through this new hydrofracking technology.