“Silent Spring” of the Susquehanna River – a review

By Mary Ellen Graybill

One evening earlier this week, under the beautiful chandeliers of the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts at F&M College, an important documentary film, Gasland, about the largest gas drilling boom in history was presented by filmmaker Josh Fox.  The film has won many awards for its presentation of the effects of gas drilling and a process called hydraulic fracturing.

Since Pennsylvania has the Marcellus Shale under large parts of the state, as does New York, Ohio and West Virginia, Fox was concerned when he received an offer to lease his family’s land in Milanville, Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas, according to Wikipedia. More than that Fox began an odyssey that took him to Dimock, Pennsylvania and filmed some families who could light their tap water on fire reportedly due to gas contamination. He started to learn about other health issues for those near the drilling, and as a result, he continued to travel to various sites and created a film to tell the rest of the story. It’s a story about corporations determined to create jobs with a technology that may not be safe for the public health.

The proposed drilling into the Marcellus Shale under Pennsylvania is the source of the natural gas that would affect this area.

Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Texas, as well as Louisiana and others are states that have been affected and the film showed with poignancy many different, yet same, scenes of personal health problems, loss of natural habitat for wildlife and untimely bird and frog deaths. In some cases, the residents affected reported that they had received settlement money from gas companies and agreed not to discuss the problems. Many described serious health problems that started when the drilling began.

The film shows scientists, politicians and others discussing the issues.  Since hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005, Fox attended and filmed a Congressional subcommittee meeting which discussed the “Fracturing responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act” which would amend the 2005 Water Act to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing.

Saying that the “citizens voice has been reduced to a whimper,” Fox engaged the audience in a discussion after the film showing, and he received applause and appreciation for his work. Activists asked what they could do.

When the recent storm caused Columbia to have a temporary ban on drinking the water due to a damaged filtration system, Columbians turned to boiling their water and drinking bottled water. However, should the increase in chemicals and hazardous materials increase from the natural gas drilling boom upstream, those chemicals and hazardous materials cannot be removed by the current filtration system, and some, can never be reversed.

Gasland is Josh Fox’s second documentary, and executive producer was Debra Winger and Hunter Gray.

For Readers who want to learn more, click here: http://www.communityactionlancaster.com/

Also: Monday, September 26, 6-9PM Citizens’ Marcellus Shale Commission, at Widener Law School- Room A-180, 3800 Vartan Way, Harrisburg, PA 17110. To Register to participate call Stephanie Frank at 717 255 7181. What it’s about: Earlier this year, Governor Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission produced a report heavily leaning towards industry. The Citizens’ Commission will give Pennsylvanians a chance to tell their side of the story- and people are invited to learn more about this issue of water, air, and impacts of shale drilling to local people.

Wednesday October 5, 6-9PM Marcellus Shale Activist Training to be held at the Grandview United Methodist Church, 888 Pleasure Road, Lancaster, PA: After the three years of gas drilling of the Marcellus Shale, accidents and methane poisoning of local streams and water has occurred; state forests are leased out with no regard for natural resources and beautify. It is felt the environmental is in great danger in Pennsylvania. Penn Environment is thus launching a project to train 1,000 people to protect their areas from gas drilling. Contact person is Jessie Miller at jmiller@publicinterestnetwork.org or 978 621 7367.

Wednesday October 12 7:30PM and Thursday October 13 at 11:30AM Film (Wednesday) and Discussion (Thursday): “Living Downstream” to be held at the Lisa Boncheck Adams Auditorium and Mayser Gymnasium at F&M College. Sandra Steingraber, PhD author of a documentary about her public quest to bring attention to the issue of cancer prevention, based on her own experience.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Several posts about Marcellus Shale drilling have appeared at Columbia news, views & reviews, including this one: https://columbianewsandviews.com/2011/08/30/natural-gas-drilling-what-we-don%E2%80%99t-know/). To find others, type “Marcellus” into the search bar at the bottom left of the home page. There are a number of “counter” perspectives about Gasland; here is one: http://www.energyindepth.org/2010/06/debunking-gasland/.]

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