DRILLING FOR THE TRUTH
Wednesday night, the anti-gas film “Gasland II” screened in front of an audience of 625 people. “FrackNation,” a pro-gas film which showed simultaneously, only had 17 people in attendance.
“A lot of people already saw ‘FrackNation’ so they’re over at ‘Gasland’ tonight,” Nicole Jacobs, of Williamsport, said.
Jeremy Mitchell, of Odessa, Texas, attended the “FrackNation” screening. When asked what he thought about “Gasland II” showing down the street, he said, “What’s ‘Gasland?’ I’ve never heard of ‘Gasland.’ “
Mitchell, who trains people to work in the shale gas industry, says he supports drilling because it creates jobs and keeps his bills paid.
“I love my job. I know my job. I do my job. I’m safe,” Mitchell said.
Some waiting in the queue for “Gasland II” asked why “FrackNation” was being screened at the same time.
“If you really want to educate people, why show ‘FrackNation’ on the same night? It has been out for almost a year now,” Carmelene Churba, of Williamsport, said.
“To force the media’s hand,” Trevor Walczack, vice president of the state chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners said. “When we have two events in the same town on the same night, covering the same issue, there’s the responsibility of the press to show both sides.”
“I see the movie as a commentary on the state of journalism,” one spectator at “FrackNation” said during a question and answer session. “With freedom of the press comes the responsibility to present all views. ‘Gasland’ didn’t do that, so thank you for presenting the other side.”
“I’ve seen ‘FrackNation’ and they’re two totally different movies. Josh is talking about how our government has been corrupted while ‘FrackNation’ is talking about how great drilling is,” Churba said.
Many in the “Gasland II” audience shared Churba’s skepticism of the gas industry.
“Fracking is the dumbest thing to do with our water supplies,” Jeffrey Hill, of Muncy, said.
“I saw the first ‘Gasland’ and I’m not happy with what’s happening to our environment and our roads,” Roxanne Embick, of Lock Haven, said. “The jobs haven’t been what was promised.”
But not everyone that came to see “Gasland II” was opposed to drilling.
“I’m for the drilling because I have family members with jobs because of it,” Kara Mark, of Loganton, said. Mark said she came to “Gasland II” to “learn the reasons why some people are against it and try to see it from their perspective.”
“I’m curious,” Ashley West, of Picture Rocks, said. “I’m good with the gas industry as long as everything is monitored.”
Joe Simpson, who works in the gas industry, said he came to see Gasland II “for fun.”
“I expect to learn absolutely nothing,” Simpson, of Williamsport, said.
Unlike Simpson, many in the “Gasland II” audience cited education as their primary motivation.
“People need to get educated or else they won’t know what’s going on. It’s unfair what the industry is doing,” Monica Shurer, of Bastress Township, said.
Some movie-goers considered themselves undecided, such as Marcelene H. Brown, of Williamsport.
“I just want to find out what’s going on in the industry on both sides,” Brown said.
Sarah Hazelton, of Mansfield, said she came to the screening after experiencing problems with drilling in her own backyard.
“We’re dairy farmers and the gas industry is destroying our crops without paying for it. They have a lot of propaganda about how good it is for farming but they take our prime land out of production and put wells on it,” Hazelton said.
Concern over land loss and water pollution was forefront in many attendees’ minds.
“I’m concerned about the state forest,” Dianne Peeling, of Montgomery, said. “We’ve given enough away and we don’t need to degrade the forest anymore.”
Micheale Hunt, who lives in Williamsport, attended the “FrackNation” screening. Hunt, whose husband works in the industry, fears that environmental extremism could be a security risk.
“I shouldn’t have to worry about my husband getting killed by an I.E.D. when he goes to work,” Hunt said.
Improvised explosive devises, or I.E.D.s, have been found on well pads in Hunt’s home state of Texas. Parts of an explosive device also were found at an unused well site near the Lycoming County-Bradford County line.
When asked to respond to fears that hydraulic fracturing will harm the environment, Hunt said, “Anything new is scary but discomfort means you’re growing. Accidents happen because of lack of experience. The key is to stay away from the fly-by-night companies.”
For Colin Jerolmack, a New York University sociologist writing a book about fracking, the simultaneous screening of such dramatically different films is an interesting case study.
“A lot of my research isn’t this polarizing. I’m trying to see what happenes when the political dimension comes to the fore. A local community issue is being drawn into a national debate,” Jerolmack said.
Although tensions ran high, many people kept an open mind.
“There’s two sides to every story,” Churba said. “The truth is in the middle.”