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HBO to air natural gas film

June 20, 2010
An award-winning film that takes on natural gas drilling will air on HBO tonight.

The documentary by John Fox won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and has been used by natural gas critics in their effort to bolster efforts to impose onerous regulations on gas drilling. Included in the movie is an interview with Dr. Al Armendariz, a regional administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency and a speaker at the OIPA's Annual Meeting. At the time of his interview with Fox, Armendariz was an engineering professor at Southern Methodist University studying how much pollution is being produced by drilling in the Barnett Shale.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

But industry groups say Gasland shouldn't even be considered a documentary.

"The movie is short on fact and long on innuendo," said Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council.
Last month, Gasland was screened at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as part of a fundraiser for the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, an advocate for stronger environmental protections on drilling.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who has called for a moratorium on drilling until questions about safety are properly investigated, told the crowd to urge their elected officials to watch the film's HBO premiere.

"The film tonight, I think, is really going to drive home that we've got some serious problems," Burnam said.

Fox, a filmmaker and theater producer, was offered a signing bonus of more than $90,000 to allow drilling under the 19 acres he owns in northeastern Pennsylvania. The offer, which he never accepted, caused him to wonder how drilling might affect the area.

"From 1972 until now, my whole life, all this has been protected," Fox narrates as the camera focuses on a tranquil, bubbling stream near his house.

Fox's journey takes him to Pennsylvania's Dimock Township, whose groundwater was contaminated after Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. drilled in the area without proper casings. Cabot agreed in April to stop drilling in Dimock for a year, plug three wells that the state deemed defective and pay a $240,000 fine.

Fox soon heads to shale gas plays in Colorado, Wyoming and other states. Residents near natural gas wells show him contaminated water and livestock suffering from bald spots. They talk about health problems that they believe that drilling caused.

"We were always after something that would have national exposure," Fox said.

Gasland has attracted a host of positive reviews and won a special jury prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. After the HBO premiere, Fox will hold screenings nationwide this summer. He also promised a theatrical release this year but declined to name the distributor.

Energy in Depth, a coalition of natural gas and oil producers, has criticized Gasland and posted on its website,, a list of statements from the film that it says are misleading or inaccurate.

"His objective with this film is to shock, not enlighten. And as a work of stylized fiction, the piece achieves that end," Chris Tucker, the group's spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
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