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The Premiere of FrackNation: A Film on Behalf of the 99%

Today, the tag-team of investigative journalists Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney are unveiling their latest documentary film FrackNation: A Journalist’s Search for the Fracking Truth. Fracking—the moniker for the gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing—is an issue that has been virtually consumed by the fright and fiction spawned from the 2010 now-debunked film entitled Gasland.   Phelim and Ann were instrumental in exposing Gasland’s misinformation to the public, which is a credit to their journalistic valor of standing up and asking questions.

So, what was the red flag that spurred Phelim and Ann to investigate the truth about fracking?  Josh Fox, the mastermind behind Gasland and a native of Pennsylvania, placed his hometown of Dimock center-stage, featuring the notorious scene of a resident lighting his sink water on fire to insinuate that a nearby fracking operation was the poisonous culprit.  To no surprise, the public leaped upon this bandwagon out of fear of water contamination and a myriad of regulations and moratoriums on fracking were put in place.

In the wake of all of this environmental hysteria, Phelim decided to do his own homework, and found that people have been able to light their water on fire for centuries in America because of natural gas migration.  He took these facts to Josh Fox at a screening of Gasland, and here is the exchange:

Struck by Fox’s own admittance of the water’s flammability before fracking had occurred, Phelim and Ann put the exchange on YouTube.  Josh Fox and his lawyers immediately forced YouTube to take it down.  They then put it on Vimeo and the same thing happened (as you can see, the film is now available to public again).   Fox’s desperate act of censorship in response to Phelim’s journalistic act was what led Phelim and Ann to create FrackNation.

“We did a film for the 99%. Their stories are not being told.  They’re not being put in print,” Phelim explained at a public discussion where selective clips of the film were shown last week.  Even after the Pennsylvania’s Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation of the water in Dimock confirmed that there was no evidence of water contamination, and even after 1,500 residents of Dimock signed a petition agreeing with the study, the rights of private property owners across this country are still being trampled by regulations put in place by misinformation.

FrackNation documents these personal stories as it investigates the core of what fracking really means for these individuals: prosperity.  Fracking, an operation that takes only 3-4 days, has the potential to produce for 30-40 years.  Ann, a self-proclaimed “recovering European,” was sure to remind everyone in the room of one significant fact: America is the only place in the world where individuals can own their mineral rights.  With moratoriums on fracking in place, as is the case with New York, property owners are unable to lease their mineral rights to the gas industry.

Our property rights as Americans become even more poignant as FrackNation journeys to Poland, where all energy sources are entirely owned by the state. Poland also sits atop rich shale gas reserves, but Vladimir Putin has come out strongly against any shale gas development.  One of the more somber clips of the film shown at the discussion was the story of a Polish woman who spends half of her pension on energy costs.

Phelim was sure to clarify that the film is more than just about fracking; “it’s also about journalists.” Journalists are the gatekeepers of the truth, and with all of the innovative, accessible resources available today, there has been no better time than now to become a watchdog.  As Ann affirmed, “You can’t control the means of getting this information there anymore.”

At the end of the discussion, I asked Phelim if he had caught any of the more candid footage of the documentary with a mobile phone, especially the clip where he caught Josh Fox in his own hypocrisy.  He said part of that clip was caught by phone, and one of the big scuffles in FrackNation was as well, but I would have to wait for the film to come out to see that.  “Mobile phones are definitely going to change the world,” Phelim concluded.

FrackNation premieres tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV.  For those watchdogs searching for some inspiration, I’d highly recommend tuning in to see how the power of truth is in the hands of the people.

Jackie Moreau

Jackie Moreau is the Managing Editor of Watchdog Wire. You can find her on Twitter as @Jackie_Moreau.

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