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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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Last week, President Obama called the United States "the Saudi Arabia of natural gas" in a speech about boosting domestic energy production. That concerns Wyoming farmer John Fenton, who already has more than two dozen gas wells on his property. The Environmental Protection Agency ruled in December that water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, was a result natural gas extraction and the controversial technique known as fracking. "Things changed pretty rapidly," Fenton says, after fracking took place on his land near Pavillion, and he now has to ship in water for drinking. "It didn’t take long to notice significant impacts to the water, the change to smell like diesel fuel. Methane was bubbling in the water. We had neighbors that actually had livestock die from drinking the water. And we also saw really huge impacts to our way of life. The farm fields are full of wellheads now that we have to work around. We have people coming and going off our property 24 hours a day. And we’ve seen over a 50 percent devaluation in the value of our land." We also speak with filmmaker Josh Fox, who was arrested for attempting to record a congressional hearing over the EPA report on Pavillion. Fox is producing a sequel to his award-winning film, "Gasland," about the impact of fracking across the United States. 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Wednesday’s hearing focused on a recent Environmental Protection Agency draft report that linked contaminated water supplies in Wyoming to chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. While a lobbyist from the Western Energy Alliance testified at Wednesday’s hearing, no local residents impacted by the water contamination were invited to speak.

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us now from Washington, D.C., is filmmaker Josh Fox. With us also via Democracy Now! video stream is John Fenton, who is a Wyoming farmer and chair of the Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens.

Josh, it’s good to have you out of jail. Explain exactly why you were in that hearing yesterday and what happened, as we listen to the debate between the Democrats and the Republicans as you were being handcuffed by police and taken out of the room.

JOSH FOX: Good morning, Amy and Juan. And certainly, hi to John Fenton. Nice to see you.

Well, basically, I was there to report on a story that I’ve been following very closely for three-and-a-half years. John and his fellow people from Pavillion, I’ve been documenting their cases of water contamination for three years, and it’s featured in the first film, Gasland. We continue to feature that in Gasland 2. So, this was a crucial hearing for us to tape, because what was going on there was a clear and brazen attack on the EPA and on the meticulous three-and-a-half-year investigation that took place in the small town of Pavillion, Wyoming, to expose a link between fracking and groundwater contamination. And this is the first case in which EPA has come out and said, at least in this last 10 years, that the likely cause of groundwater contamination was fracking.

And what was apparent to us was that this was going to be an attack on science from within the science and technology committee, that they had a panel that was stuffed with gas industry lobbyists, that this was actually a way of trying to dismantle this EPA report. We wanted to be there to show that that was what the agenda was. We wanted to report on what happened. I was not interested in disrupting that hearing. It was not a protest action. I was simply trying to do my job as a journalist and go in there and show to the American people what was transpiring in that hearing, so that down the line, as we know there will be a lot of challenges mounted to that EPA report—and frankly, to the people in Pavillion, who have been sticking up for themselves and demanding an investigation into the groundwater contamination—and to make sure that people could view that in a larger forum than usually happens.

 
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