Hot of the press in most of rural Pennsylvania are promises on economic opportunity from fracking, but Triple Divide a new documentary by filmmakers and journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman questions its impacts. The film covers a two-year analysis of fracking by investigative news nonprofit Public Herald and is touring across the Commonwealth this November. “People can expect to witness a side of fracking they’ve never seen before by watching Triple Divide,” said Pribanic. The film is the first of its kind to reveal illegal burials of potentially radioactive waste in Exceptional Value Watersheds. It highlights new concepts regarding an issue dubbed “The Pressure Bulb” referring to the unregulated force needed to frack a well, and uncovers a ‘predrill scandal’ where the industry is allowed to dismiss its own science.
Over a handful of Governor Tom Corbett's own administration have resigned more than a year before the end of the governor's first term, for reasons that remain partly cloudy at best. Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander left March 2013. Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner left the month before Alexander. Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt left October 2012. And then there's the leadership upheaval at Pennsylvania's environmental agencies: the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in charge of oil and gas extraction and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in charge of conservation and management of forests, parks and other natural areas. DCNR has limited authority to manage oil and gas fracking on state land, since DEP issues the permits under its own set of policies and procedures. In June, then head of DCNR Richard Allen was fired after an email to his wife Patricia who then worked at DEP reached the Governor's desk. The email contained potentially-racist comments toward a high-ranking staff member of DEP, whom Allen also called a "B****" in the email. Sources say that the staff member has since quietly left DEP without announcement. Mrs. Allan has also left DEP but still works for the state. Governor Corbett has since replaced Michael Krancer as head of Environmental Protection with environmental expert Chris Abruzzo, former Chief Deputy Attorney General. Aburzzo supervised the state's Drug Strike Force and also serves as Derry Township Supervisor in Hershey, Pa.
Triple Divide History Lesson While driving through eastern Ohio yesterday, I stopped for a stroll along the Cayuhoga. In the language of the First Americans, the name meant “crooked river.” For other Americans born centuries later, the name would come to mean “the river that caught on fire from pollution.” The famous Cayuhoga fire of 1969 was blamed on heavy oil slicks, and was one of several that afflicted the river during more than a century of unregulated industrial waste dumping. The image of the river burning has been credited with a surge in the environmental movement and the political support needed to pass the Clean Water Act. Fast-forward to September 2013, as Ohioans turn out in the hundreds to watch different images of rivers threatened and rivers defended—this time in the form of Triple Divide, a documentary about the damage caused by shale gas development.
There’s an Elephant in the room who holds dark secrets about our society…what if it could talk? A September 18th article by Dan Gearino of Columbus Dispatch gives us an in-room perspective about fracking at the White House, "Obama former energy secretary says fracking can be done safely.” Former US Energy Sec. Steven Chu, who presented at an industry event in Columbus recently, compares the risks of fracking to the building trade. "When you built buildings in the past...with industrial accident and construction deaths, we were saying, 'That's part of the business'...Nowadays it's not part of the business." First, apparently "accident" (incident would be more accurate) and death are no longer a part of the business. Second, who does Mr. Chu mean when he says "you" and "we?" Third and most importantly, comparing fracking to the building trade is like comparing anti-freeze to alka-seltzer, or alka-seltzer to fracking. (Like The Colbert Report did.)
A documentary on hydraulic fracturing drew a packed house Thursday night in downtown Mansfield. “Triple Divide,” an 18-month investigation by Public Herald, an investigative news nonprofit co-founded by two journalists, was shown at Relax It’s Just Coffee on North Main Street. Journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman created the film to show how state regulations and industry in Pennsylvania have been handling the effects of the process known as fracking. Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. The film revealed how the industry and state appear to cover up water contamination. Pribanic and Troutman talked to several Pennsylvania farmers and landowners who were affected by the drilling, which resulted in health issues and significant disruptions to their land and lives.
The fact is, I think Clark’s statements are censoring information, important information, about a film made in the backyard of the ‘boonies.’ But, it’s more egregious than that. It’s censoring art, a crime I feel is equal to any of those committed by the oil and gas industry. How do you build a culture, a society, and a democracy by censoring art! According to Clark, ”It’s totally business.” Not-so-surprisingly, this isn’t the only time Triple Divide has been censored. RDA, a nonprofit organization in another fracking industry hub, Williamsport, PA, had a date to screen Triple Divide at the Creative Arts Center (CAC) a couple months after the group showed Gasland II. But when, according to a CAC spokesperson, two big donors threatened to pull their funding if CAC showed another film about fracking, RDA was banned from using the venue any further. Once again, along with RDA, Triple Divide was censored. Yet again this month in Salem, OH, a Kent State University Branch told a representative from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative: “We have decided not to go forward with your request to use our facility. If you do find a place to do your presentation in Columbiana County, please let me know. I would like to attend the showing and also tell others about this event.”
Aqua America, the company responsible for Riverdale (see video below), is at it again in Youngstown, OH. A complaint filed on Jul. 2, 2013 with the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court requests ‘declaratory judgement’ or clarification on an 83-year-old deed for a 6 acre area of McKelvey Lake. The judgement is being requested to allow for surface access to mineral rights by Aqua America subsidiary, Aqua Infrastructure, in order to transfer the lease to a larger operator who can initiate fracking. The complaint comes as one attempt to silence blowback from residents, who believe the deed restricts a process like fracking on the McKelvey Lake property. Aqua America is suggesting in the complaint that the original restrictions of the deed did not show intent to prevent surface use for something like fracking a well. Although, according to Public Herald review, the deed’s original intent does seem to prevent the type of development that comes with fracking, due to such language as “that it will not erect any buildings thereon except such that may be required and then only of a sightly appearance and design necessary for general water works…”
Just as Public Herald journalists, Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic, brought the results of their investigative study to the screen, the editorial touted talking points delivered by Governor Corbett on a recent visit to Erie. He was hoping to persuade voters that his job creation record is not as dismal as it seems (Pennsylvania has gone from 6th to 45th during his tenure despite the promise of Marcellus Shale jobs). Environmentalists are not “turning up their noses” at jobs in the natural gas industry for frivolous reasons. These teachers, doctors, farmers, business owners and families are concerned about mounting evidence that unconventional natural gas drilling affects the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have the right to clean water and clean air, which, by the way, is guaranteed in Section 1 Article 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Triple Divide moves beyond the sensationalism of Gasland with science, fact-based reporting and personal stories from Pennsylvania’s shale fields. The filmmakers and a former employee of a natural gas company, whose job was to mitigate and sometimes cover up “mistakes,” urged citizens to pay attention. Hold local media accountable for reporting all of the stories, not just those from gas industry insiders, they said.
Op-Ed by Jennifer Chesnut On Thursday an editorial appeared in the Erie-Times “Can Erie’s economy gain from fracking?” but failed to mention the impact fracking is having on the health of workers who fuel the economy. I'm a Canadian on holiday in Erie, and I attended a local showing of the investigative documentary Triple Divide — a film that documents Pennsylvanian experiences with fracking. Farmers, from places like Potter and Bradford Counties, shared stories of dangers they faced when exposed to waste or wastewater from fracking: such as fevers, rashes, and enlarged spleens. I don’t know much about Pennsylvanians, but you seem like a friendly bunch that extends kindness to strangers easily. After hearing the stories of your local people in Triple Divide, I have much worry for your farmers and the communities they serve. Some farmers expressed concern about the safety of their milk, when their cows got sick and drinking water wells showed high rates of carcinogens like methane, barium, strontium, and radon.
If you're not angry about what the gas industry and its profiteering shills are doing to areas with shale gas, you probably haven't seen Triple Divide; an excellent investigative report on the unsavory underbelly of this beast in PA. Of the fifty some area residents who gave up their Saturday afternoon to attend the showing I'd arranged in Blossburg, one left about two thirds through the film. He was clearly very upset and disgusted as he approached the filmmakers and me near the concession stand where we stood watching. He said something about the futility of opposing the industry which would get away with whatever it wanted. As an afterthought he turned and ironically added, "You're doing a good job."