The film chronicles the effects of a kind of drilling for natural gas, called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Filmmaker Josh Fox traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to Colorado, Texas, Utah, Arkansas and Wyoming to film residents of rural communities whose lives had been negatively impacted by the fracking process near their homes. Fracking can cause health risks from air emissions and groundwater contamination, as well as contamination of fresh water like streams and rivers. There are also federal loopholes that keep the fracking process from being properly regulated.
Recently, oil and gas companies have expressed interest in doing this type of drilling, or fracking, in shale basins across 14 counties in North Carolina, including Anson.
The screening of the film was hosted by Clean Water for North Carolina (CWFNC), a statewide nonprofit organization that is working for clean, safe water and empowered communities.
"For us, it's really important to protect local people's health," Hope Taylor, executive director of CWFNC, said before the screening. "We've paid a lot of attention to protecting ground water and well water."
Taylor showed the audience a map of the 14 counties that could potentially be affected, with a large swath going straight through Anson. "Fracking for natural gas is being touted as the perfect transition fuel because it produces less carbon, but people are beginning to look more closely at this process," she said.
North Carolina does not currently allow this type of drilling, which goes horizontally into the ground, rather than vertically, but the energy industry is looking to buy leases to overturn these protections.
The film begins with filmmaker Fox being offered such a lease— for $100,000— for his home in rural Pennsylvania, a house he's lived in since his birth in 1972.
Fox began to investigate this type of drilling in the Dimock community in Pennsylvania, and found that since the drilling had started, the water "had gone bad." Entire families became sick. One family's pets and horses began to lose their hair. Fox also heard reports of a family who could light their water on fire, but that family refused to go on camera to demonstrate.
Other families in Colorado, however, did appear on camera. Numerous shots appeared in the film of a lighter being held underneath a running faucet. After a few seconds, sometimes even instantly, the running water erupted into a whoosh of flames before the water was quickly turned off.
The water that came out of these people's wells was muddy-looking, sometimes brownish-yellow. The chemicals found in testing of those water samples were numerous, many of them harmful to humans.
One rural community at the foot of the Tetons in Wyoming has worse air quality than Los Angeles.
When a Congressional hearing was held on the fracking concerns, industry representatives pointed out that there were no "proven claims" that fracking for natural gas directly led to health problems.
When the film was over, Taylor pointed out that North Carolina law does block fracking at the moment, but "the oil and gas industry is lobbying hard in our legislature to change that." Some landowners in Lee County have already been offered lease agreements through the federal loophole, she added.
A Duke University researcher has suggested that the state implement a moratorium against this kind of drilling, but the moratorium idea hasn't yet been finalized, Taylor said.
Since there were county government representatives present, one person asked if there was anything local governments could do. Taylor said that some counties and municipalities in Pennsylvania have enacted ordinances and resolutions to protect their communities, and counties could certainly do that, as well.
Any persons who are contacted by gas and oil companies asking for leases in order to do fracking are asked to contact Jordan Treakle with the Rural Advancement Foundation International at (919) 444-1321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information, you can also contact Taylor at email@example.com, or (919) 401-9600.