It's hard to imagine a time when the line between area pro- and anti-gas drilling folks will be drawn clearer than next Wednesday, when the films "Gasland Part II" and "Fracknation" will be shown at the same time, on the same block.
"Gasland Part II" is a film by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox, whose anti-fracking documentary "Gasland" became a national sensation in 2010, propelling him and his fight against gas drilling into the international spotlight. The film follows Fox across the country as he interviews people who claim to have been negatively impacted by gas drilling and includes the famous scenes of people lighting their faucet water on fire.
The film is extremely controversial, with many of its claims being contested and its validity being called into question by several organizations.
The sequel, Fox told the Sun-Gazette in a recent interview, is a "true sequel" that continues the stories of families from the first film. This time around, however, the documentary focuses more on the political end of the spectrum.
"This film monitors and follows how political pressure is asserted on gas industry investigations," Fox said. "The science that shows the gas industry has been contaminating the ground water is thrown out ... and it's not just in Pennsylvania. After the Obama administration embraced gas drilling, all of a sudden, we saw clean-water investigations completely fold and get brushed aside."
One of the personal accounts that Fox relayed is that of Randy Moyer of Portage, a truck driver who says that the gas drilling chemicals have ruined his life.
"He's a truck driver out of the Altoona area who worked for the gas industry," Fox said. "He was told to clean off well pads with no safety equipment."
Moyer transported brine from wells to treatment plants and back and "sometimes cleaned out the storage cans used to hold wastewater on drilling sites," according to an article in the Ellwood City Ledger.
"Now he has chemical sores all over his body," Fox said. "He has brain damage ... his body and his health has been changed as a result of working four or five months for the gas industry. He wasn't told what he was really handling. He was told he was handling mud."
While Fox will be attending the Responsible Drilling Alliance's screening of "Gasland II" at 7 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., next door, in the Genetti Hotel Grand Ballroom, "Fracknation," a response to "Gasland," will be presented by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners.
The president of the chapter, Jackie Root, said that the organization wanted to make sure that the other side of the story was being heard as well.
"We believe that 'Gasland,' the first movie, was full of blatant misinformation and I'd go as far as to say lies," she said.
Root said that the film is filled with "partial truth" and that it paints a picture of the drilling industry that's "just not true."
"It's not an environmental disaster," she said.
"When they show the pictures of flaming faucets - from the first film, I haven't seen 'Gasland II' - the flaming faucets naturally occur all over Pennsylvania and Josh Fox has admitted that. But he says it's irrelevant."
When Fox was told that "Fracknation" would be shown in competition with his film, his response was: "Basically, it's a joke, a complete joke. It's gas industry-sponsored denialism. That has just been an effort to spike the media and create a false debate. The gas industry has done a lot of nefarious things to pretend that this isn't happening. They know their wells are leaking into aquifers."
Root said that Fox and other anti-gas drilling activists aren't the real environmentalists.
"I think that anti-drillers are well-funded by I guess you'd say environmentalist organizations," Root said. "But they're not the real environmentalists. We are the farmers. We are the ones on the land. We take care of the environment every day so that all those people can enjoy it."
"Fracknation" is a film made by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, who helped to fund it with a Kickstarter campaign, and features McAleer confronting Fox about the potential inaccuracies in "Gasland." McAleer presents Fox with the information that people have been able to light their faucet water on fire in Pennsylvania long before this round of gas drilling started. Fox says the information is "not relevant." The film segment ends at that point and it's not clear if Fox elaborated on that statement at the time of filming.
According to Root, Fox has refused to meet with McAleer again.
Regardless of which side of the debate a person takes, Wednesday may be an interesting night in Williamsport.