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Oscar-Nominated 'Gasland' Director Calls Latest Attack on His Film 'Outlandish' and Tells Why the Industry Is Getting Desperate

Josh Fox talks about why the gas industry is losing control of the message and how it has underestimated the power of citizens affected by gas drilling.
 
 
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Editor's Note: Read the letterJosh Fox wrote in response to the gas industry's attacks on his film.

When the gas industry sent an open letter this month to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demanding it revoke its best documentary nomination for the gas-drilling exposé Gasland, many seemed surprised by this brazen missive.

Gasland director Josh Fox wasn't one of those people.

"What this points to is the culture of that industry, which is bullying, which is aggressive, which is outlandish in their tactics, which will stop at nothing," Fox told AlterNet during a nearly hour-long interview.

The Oscar nomination, of course, ensures wider attention to the dangers of the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on our nation's water supply, air quality and overall impact on citizens' health.

Gasland already won the prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on HBO last summer. The film's Facebook page boasts 40,000 followers -- which Fox said is "like a news ticker of gas drilling contamination stories" -- with people linking to the latest reports of poisoned aquifers, sickened citizens and calls for drilling moratoriums, as well as first-person accounts of those living in the gaslands.

Fox and actor/activist Mark Ruffalo stormed Capitol Hill a few days ago, garnering heightened national attention to the issue as they called for an immediate federal moratorium on natural gas drilling.

The momentum, for now, appears to be in favor of Fox and anti-drilling advocates.

Industry "Very Upset" Over Losing Control of the Message

The letter to the Academy, Fox said, is also an act of desperation because the gas industry is "very, very upset about having lost control over the message." Something, he adds, "They have kept very tightly."

Fracking is a technique that blasts toxic chemicals and millions of gallons water deep underground to access natural gas deposits trapped in rock formations. Natural gas drilling has been billed by the oil and gas industry as the "clean" alternative to coal and the best method to wean America off foreign oil. But it has gone unregulated since 2005, when a clause in an energy bill spearheaded by then Vice-President Dick Cheney opened a loophole exempting the practice from federal clean water laws.

To this day, gas drilling companies do not have to report what chemicals, from an array of over 500 proprietary substances, they're pumping into the ground.

Energy in Depth, the group that sent the letter to the Academy, is a shadowy front group for the oil and gas industry that unleashed its smear campaign, including its report " Debunking Gasland," in June, when the documentary first began receiving wider attention. On the film's Web site, Fox, in turn, released a 39-page point-by-point rebuttal, or what he called a "de-de-bunking document in response to specious and misleading gas industry claims." 

In the letter to the Academy, Energy in Depth's executive director, Lee O. Fuller, argues that the documentary should be ineligible because it presents "stylized fiction" filled with "many errors, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods." Yet the letter is short on details and simply attaches the same "Debunking Gasland" document that Fox and contributing experts have already "de-de-bunked."

Oddly, Lee O. Fuller does not appear on Energy in Depth's Web site. He is listed, however, as the vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a major lobbying group for oil and natural gas interests.

IPAA also happens to be the same group, among dozens of other energy entities, that Fox listed at the end of Gasland as having declined him an interview.

 
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