The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

HBO to Premiere Explosive Natural Gas Documentary

“Gasland” Exposes Unchecked Drilling’s Threat to Health and the Environment


Film director Josh Fox grew up in rural Pennsylvania on the Delaware
River, which sits above the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale formation
deep underground. When he was offered $100,000 to lease his property
for natural gas exploration, Fox decided to chronicle drilling's impact
on the American landscape and its people.

On Monday, June 21 at 9:00 p.m. EDT, Home Box Office (HBO) will
premiere "Gasland," Fox's documentary on the dangers of natural gas
exploration. Writing in Variety, the entertainment industry
publication, critic Robert Koehler said, "If a film can ever enact
social change, which is rare, the potency of "Gasland" suggests that
this may be that film." Gasland has won acclaim on the independent film
festival circuit, including taking home the Special Jury prize at the
2010 Sundance Film Festival.

"Gasland's message is invaluable to our work educating lawmakers and
the public on the dangers that unregulated natural gas drilling poses
to public health and the environment," said Dusty Horwitt, senior
counsel at Environmental Working Group (EWG). "Mr. Fox's film is
particularly relevant in its depiction of the impact that unchecked gas
drilling has had on the health of rural American families and the
callous attitude of industry representatives."

"I leaned heavily on EWG's research on natural gas extraction
techniques as source material for Gasland," said Fox. "EWG's advocacy
for safer drilling brings heft to arguments urging lawmakers at the
local and national level to address the astounding lack of regulation
of natural gas drilling," Fox said.

EWG is hosting a live chat with Fox following the HBO premiere on Tuesday June 22nd at

Natural gas companies have industrialized the Western landscape,
punching thousands of wells into pristine lands, injecting toxic
chemicals, consuming millions of gallons of water, digging pits for
hazardous waste and carving out sprawling road networks. Yet almost
uniquely among U.S. industries, oil and gas drillers are exempt from
regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the
Clean Air Act and other federal environmental laws.

With the discovery of large natural gas reserves in the Marcellus
shale, New York, Pennsylvania and other eastern states are now in line
to experience similar devastation. As "Gasland" documents, residents of
Pennsylvania have already had their drinking water contaminated in
areas where drilling took place.

Recent research by EWG has focused on a process known as horizontal
drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, which has enabled gas
companies to unlock huge new deposits of gas buried in deep shale
formations. Known as "fracking," the process shatters the rock to allow
captive gas and oil to flow to the surface. Fracking is used in 90
percent of the nation's natural gas and oil wells.

In "Drilling Around the Law,",
EWG showed that drilling companies are skirting federal law and
injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells,
threatening drinking water supplies from Pennsylvania to Wyoming.
Federal and state regulators, meanwhile, largely look the other way.

A report titled "Free Pass for Oil and Gas in the American West," ,
documented that the boom in unregulated oil and natural gas exploration
across the West poses a threat to public health and the environment.
Exclusive EWG maps detailed drilling activity county by county.

EWG Safe Drinking Water Fact Sheet Produced in Conjunction with Earthworks -

Key findings of EWG's reports included:

* Drilling companies are using dozens of petroleum distillates in
their hydraulic fracturing fluids. These distillates, including
kerosene, mineral spirits and diesel fuel, contain high levels of the
so-called BTEX chemicals benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene,
which are toxic in water at minuscule levels. Benzene is of particular
concern because it is a known human carcinogen in water at
concentrations higher than five parts per billion.

* In a worst-case scenario, petroleum distillates used to
hydraulically fracture a single well could contain enough benzene to
contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe
levels, according to drilling company disclosures in New York and
published studies. That's more than then times the water used by the
state of New York every day.

* In using petroleum distillates, companies are skirting the federal
Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires a permit for fracturing with
diesel fuel (itself a petroleum distillate). In 2004, the EPA concluded
that the use of diesel fuel in fracturing poses "the greatest potential
threat to [underground sources of drinking water] because the BTEX
constituents in diesel fuel exceed the [maximum contaminant level] at
the point-of-injection." EWG found that other petroleum distillates
used in fracking can contain even higher levels of benzene but do not
require a permit.

* Regulators in four states (New York, Pennsylvania, Montana and
Texas) told EWG that they do not check to determine whether drilling
companies are using diesel or other petroleum distillates. Regulators
in these states and Wyoming said they do not issue permits for
fracturing. A Wyoming official who asked not to be named said companies
there commonly fractured with diesel.

* In February, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported that
two companies, B.J. Services and Halliburton, had injected diesel in
hydraulic fracturing operations in at least 15 states from 2005 through
2007. At least some of these injections occurred on or after Aug. 8,
2005, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 became law. This law exempted
hydraulic fracturing from the Underground Injection Control permitting
requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act except when diesel is used,
so the two companies may have broken the law if they fractured with
diesel without a permit. The committee did not disclose where the
injections occurred.

* The committee also found that B.J. Services violated a non-binding
2003 agreement with EPA not to inject diesel fuel directly into
underground sources of drinking water in coal bed methane formations.

* Companies have sought to drill for natural gas in the watershed
that provides New York City's drinking water. The city has strongly
opposed such drilling.

* Industry often claims there is no evidence that hydraulic
fracturing has ever contaminated drinking water, but people from
Pennsylvania to Wyoming have clearly documented that their water was

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

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