Monday, August 09, 2010

'Gasland' Comes to Town

This evening the acclaimed documentary Gasland will be screened at 7:30 in the KAFM Radio Room in Downtown Grand Junction. This film, which has received significant recognition at festivals and in the media, is being presented here by the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Gasland is the work of documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, who hails from northeastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Marcellus Shale formation that has generated quite a bit of recent drilling and resulting debate.

Over the course of the last two months (most of which I spent in Pennsylvania), several incidents at gas wells across that state and in neighboring West Virginia, including a fatal explosion in the Pittsburgh suburbs, have left residents of suburban and rural areas increasingly concerned, and local governments calling for a statewide moratorium on drilling until the risks can be better evaluated.

Gasland explores the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", and its effect on watersheds and groundwater in areas where it occurs. Mr. Fox uses examples not only from his native Pennsylvania and New York, but also here on the Western Slope as well as other areas of the country where fracking is employed to free up gas deposits trapped by underground rock.

Josh Fox will be on hand at the Grand Junction screening to answer questions and offer additional insight into what he has discovered while making and since completing his film. Tickets are $10, and seating is expected to be tight. Those of you with HBO can watch the film now on demand, and the DVD is due out at the end of this year.

While I'll be working tonight, I'm hopeful that the turnout is as expected, and the discussion spirited and respectful. Josh Fox is but one of an increasing number of voices rising out of those areas where natural gas is plentiful, demanding answers to questions about the safety of gas drilling, especially where fracking is used.

Another voice belongs to the Battlement Concerned Citizens, who successfully lobbied Garfield County to fund a health assessment of gas drilling before any occurs in the Battlement Mesa community south of Parachute. The players and their efforts were profiled in a story in yesterday's Denver Post.

It feels like the tide is turning toward providing for energy development that takes into account these factors as well as others, along with new state rules and regulations, and brings about an industry that is able to function profitably while conducting themselves responsibly. Democratic candidate for governor John Hickenlooper makes such a case in his energy issues statement:
Instead of throwing out the oil and gas rules recently promulgated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission under the Ritter Administration, we believe it makes more sense to engage industry, the conservation community and other stakeholders in identifying conflicts and resolving them in a collaborative way. Most of the rules reflect industry best practices and we believe the commission process can accommodate changes that reflect different conditions, needs and priorities.
Considering that the GOP candidates have basically self-destructed in recent weeks, this approach stands a very good chance of being implemented with the election of Mr. Hickenlooper in November.

Let's hope it does.

Enjoy the week ahead.

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