PENNSYLVANIA — Investigative news nonprofit Public Herald has won $35,000 to tour its investigative documentary Triple Divide about fracking in the Marcellus Shale across the United States. Public Herald is one of eight winners in the first round […]
It’s day one and Christine Pepper’s family has no water. There’s no water for the family to drink, to shower, or wash their clothes so they’re making calls to inlaws and saving single gallon plastic jugs. It’s day one, and the Pepper family has 45 days until they know what’s happened. It started when Christine splashed water on her face from the kitchen faucet and a burning sensation shot through her skin. “It felt like my face was on fire for 20 minutes,” she said. Later red bumps developed. Not shortly after there was no water at all. The Pepper's spring-fed well, which had produced water for more than 50 years, went completely dry. “I’m not saying we’ve never had low water," explains Christine’s husband Corey, "but it always comes right back, but it’s stayed dry for two weeks. And... I’ve never seen it! I’m 42, I’ve lived here 42 years, and my Dad was 18 when he bought this house.”
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 the early spring of 2006, a nice man was in the area, promoting a chance to dream of better times for Bradford County and its farmers. There was promise of jobs for everyone and the farmer would generate money from signing a lease, and if a gas well was drilled on the farmer’s property he would become rich. Two years passed with little activity. By now, the older leases were about to expire, gas companies were beginning to drill, and excitement was in the air. Here, the majority of farmers signed early, receiving $5- $85/per acre. There was this belief that the person with the gas well would become the next “shaleionaires.” We later found out small acre properties started signing leases at $2,500/ per acre. By the spring of 2009, there was uneasiness among some of the farmers who had a gas well drilled on their property. The local newspaper was reporting contamination found in water wells, death occurring on a gas pad and the farmer was facing the fact that he could lose his farm due to a lawsuit based on the gas companies operation. For myself, I was thinking that our lucky neighbor was going to become the next Millionaire, because they had the gas well drilled on them. Soon my mind changed. Those farmers were facing penalties lodged against them, due to their land becoming industrial use instead of agricultural use.