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Fire From the Faucet Ignites Doc on Dangers of Gas Drilling

June 15, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - People who can set the tap water from their faucets on fire are just one of the frightening features of a new television documentary on the potential dangers of natural gas drilling.

After rejecting an offer of tens of thousands of dollars by a gas company to drill on his land in Milanville, Pennsylvania, Josh Fox set out on a 24-state film-making journey to investigate the environmental and health risks of natural gas. He found air and water pollution and troubling ailments.

When he got to Colorado, he found an apparent - and particularly scary - side effect of "fracking," - a method of hydraulically fracturing shale rock to extract gas.

"There was a large onset of fracking of gas wells and then all of a sudden all of these people over that area could light their water on fire."

A spokesperson for The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group in Pennsylvania, says Fox's documentary "Gasland" is "full of misleading claims and untruths," and says fracking has been used for a half century in the state without an adverse impact on drinking water.

Natural gas is billed as a "clean burning" alternative to coal and oil, but Fox disagrees. He says its backers are exploiting the BP oil spill in the Gulf to promote it.

"The natural gas industry's lobby is very adamant about getting out there and saying, 'Oh, look at this oil spill; we should use natural gas.' But it's really a false solution to our energy needs, it's a false solution to climate change."

Legislation is being fought over in Congress that would require the chemicals used in fracking to be subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fox says he hopes his film will open some eyes.

"When people see this film, they're like, 'What is going on? This is unbelievable.' There's an enormous amount of shock involved."

"Gasland" debuts June 21 on HBO and is to air five more times in late June and early July.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - PA