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Gasland Director Josh Fox: Obama's Support for Natural Gas Drilling 'A Painful Moment' for Communities Exposed to Fracking

Fox talks with Democracy Now following his arrest Wednesday while trying to film a Congressional hearing.

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JUAN GONZALEZ: And Josh, the attacks have come not only through this congressional investigation on the EPA report, but also from local press in Wyoming, as well? Obviously, there are huge implications nationwide for what the results of this study show.

JOSH FOX: Well, virtually every Republican candidate right now is out for elimination of the EPA, which shows the deep, deep influence of oil and gas on Congress and on the Republican Party. So, what you’re seeing here happening is a war between the federal agency, which is well funded and impartial, in a certain sense, or more impartial, and the state regulatory agencies, which, as we’ve investigated, and we will show quite thoroughly, I think, in Gasland 2, have an enormous amount of influence and pressure on them from oil and gas, to the point to which many, many people think that they’re corrupt. So getting the EPA out of the way is one of these ways that you completely dismantle the regulatory system, and that’s why the EPA is the target here.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to President Obama’s recent comments about natural gas drilling. This is what he said just last week in his State of the Union address.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use, because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk. The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock, reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama in the State of the Union address. Josh Fox, director of Gasland?

JOSH FOX: That was actually quite, I think, a very painful moment for a lot of people who have been focusing on gas fracking for the last several years. I think the President’s statements right there are wrong. I mean, it’s very clear that we do not have a hundred years’ worth of natural gas, and certainly not if we want to start using it in cars and trucks. And it has been—it’s very, very unclear, in the science, whether or not this fracking technique can be done safely. And in my research, it shows itself to be inherently contaminating. And there is no proof to think that we could be doing this gas extraction safely.

On the other hand, what the President did say was that he was in support of the disclosure of the chemicals, which is to say, the reversal of the exemption to the Safe Drinking Water Act that the gas industry was granted in 2005. They were made exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which stated that—in the 2005 energy bill, allowing them to inject toxic chemicals and toxic material into the ground without having to report that. So what he’s saying is, you can’t get away with not reporting and not disclosing the chemicals that you’re pumping into the ground. However, when we look at the industry’s own reports, and it shows that 40 percent of their wells have integrity issues—that is to say, the well casing that protects the groundwater cracks in 40 percent of the cases over a short period of time, and in a larger percentage over a longer period of time—this is basically surrendering those areas to groundwater contamination, either in the short term or in the long term.

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