With high-profile activists like Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon taking a stand against fracking, the controversial drilling practice has been pulled from the periphery and placed in the public's main line-of-sight at a scale sparking movement from Hollywood. Promised Land, a film starring Matt Damon as a salesman for a natural gas company, hits theaters tonight, lending cinematic drama to the issue of fracking. While the large-scale exposure is valuable, Melissa Troutman, co-creator of another film on fracking, is careful to iterate an important fact, "Promised Land is a story, but this [Triple Divide] is a true story." Triple Divide, a documentary by Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman of Public Herald, carefully investigates the effects of fracking in the Marcellus Shale Region of Pennsylvania from the ground up, focusing its lens on the true accounts of neighbors who have lost their water well to contamination from drilling, and farmers, like the ones in Promised Land, who have lost their land to pollution from a nearby well pad. In their first live interview about the film, journalists Joshua and Melissa discussed Triple Divide and the impact of fracking with Stefanie Spear, Founder and Editor of EcoWatch, a news service designed to promote and build a community of grassroots environmental activism. You can watch the full interview above or at EcoWatch.
In 2006 — according to a ProPublica report — a residential drinking water well in Garfield County, Colo., spewed gas and polluted water into the air after a nearby gas well was hydraulically fractured. Tests detected a chemical called 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, in the drinking water well. The EPA never studied the case, and Colorado officials did not pursue an in-depth investigation before the gas company reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the homeowner that included nondisclosure agreements.
Ever since high-profile water contamination cases were linked to drilling in Dimock, Pa., in late 2008, drilling companies themselves have been diligently collecting water samples from private wells before they drill, according to several industry consultants who have been working with the data. While Pennsylvania regulations now suggest pre-testing water wells within 1,000 feet of a planned gas well, companies including Chesapeake Energy, Shell and Atlas have been compiling samples from a much larger radius—up to 4,000 feet from every well.