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Gasland 2 Premieres on HBO Monday, PA Fracking Moratorium Day Follows Thursday


The natural gas boom, facilitated by technological developments in its extraction from shale rock formations through hydraulic fracturing or fracking, has greatly reduced U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and boosted its international status as an energy exporter.

However, critics contend that it's all happening too fast too soon. While industry experts admit the possibility for marginal error in the extraction process, which drills deep into shale rock to release gas and oil deposits through a mix of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals, they maintain that fracking is generally safe.

A loosely-configured coalition of local voices, environmentalists, academics and celebrities are concerned about the high prevalence of methane gas and salination of freshwater watersheds, aquifers and drinking water sources in regions that have experienced increased fracking operations in recent years. They have been conducting independent studies, filing lawsuits against private companies and voicing their opposition through online petitions, protests and support for fracking moratoriums at the state level, asserting that fracking may not be as safe as federal and state regulators say and calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to get involved and for companies to disclose what proprietary chemicals they use.

The EPA is in the process of conducting its own study on fracking and its effects on health and the environment, which it hopes to complete by 2014. However, its trackrecord on the issue has been wishy-washy, with the agency having punted on several cases against fracking at the state level.

Documentary film-maker and anti-fracking activist Joshua Fox, the director of Gasland and Gasland 2, which premieres on HBO this Monday, July 8, has perhaps built one of the most successful national coalitions against fracking and rendered iconic the image of someone's methane-contaminated tapwater going up in flames in the western United States.

Gasland 2 follows up on what has happened to the local communities featured in the first Gasland, who were experiencing contamination of their drinking water.  Gasland 2 also examines the ways in which local, state, and national government is intertwined with industry– a situation that is "lighting our democracy on fire," according to the film-maker.


The Gasland 2 Trailer:


Fox hails from Pennsylvania - home to Dimock, where several residents sued Cabot and got the EPA involved in measuring toxicity levels in their wells to no conclusive results, other than that methane levels were higher than the legal amount.  Pennsylvania has become a hotbed of fracking controversy both at the regional and state government level, while neighboring states like New York and Delaware also have key roles to play in preventing fracking in the Delaware River watershed and a good portion of the eastern Marcellus Shale.

Concerned that New York state might reverse its moratorium, and convinced the Obama administration is kowtowing to private interests at the expense of further development of renewables in the United States, Fox has coupled the television premiere of Gasland 2 with a national  strategy call.


"What happens to the families in Dimock, PA, whose water is poisoned by migrating fracking fluids and methane, is connected to what happens to families in Pavillion, Wyoming, whose water was tested by the EPA and found with 50 times the accepted level of benzyne, along with countless other chemicals and compounds associated only with fracking," writes Rev. Leah Schade, an ecopreacher who reviewed the film.

In cooperation with Food and Water Watch, the nonprofit Damascus Citizens for Sustainability – the group that provided initial funding and background information for Gasland–  is also organizing a Pennsylvania Fracking Moratorium Day on July 11 with the stated goals of increasing the number of sponsors to the state moratorium bill, known as  Senator Ferlo’s Fracking Moratorium Legislation.  Fracking Moratorium Day's objectives are 1) to demonstrate that a majority of Pennsylvanians now are against fracking, 2) build momentum for the movement against fracking, and 3) and convince Sen. Lisa Baker that her constituents do not want fracking in Wayne County, or anywhere in PA.

According to Food and Water Watch, "in Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 gas fracking wells and permitted well sites are located within two miles of 320 day care centers, 67 schools and nine hospitals."

The organization recommends a ban on shale gas fracking, which accounts for roughly 90 percent of all natural gas extraction in the U.S.; closing loopholes that exempt fracking from key federal air and water regulations; and investing in renewable energy sources.

An online petition sponsored by Democracy for America and Environmental Action calls for Congress to pass the recently re-introduced FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness to Chemical Act), which would require companies to disclose what chemicals they use in fracking.