‘Gasland’ director attacks the AP in front of sparse crowd in Royal Oak

On Wednesday, I attended the much ballyhooed showing of Josh Fox’s Gasland Part II in Royal Oak, Michigan.  Given the hype over this event, I arrived early to avoid the anticipated long line to get in.  However, I was somewhat surprised that when I arrived — there was no line.  The lack of attendance definitely seemed odd given Mr. Fox’s national reputation as the champion for activists who want to halt oil and gas development, regardless of its contribution to the country’s economic recovery.  Surprisingly, even after two activists stood on the side of the road to attract more people to the free event, there were only about 150 there.  Then again, maybe the lack of attendance was due to the fact that here in Michigan, the oil and gas industry has been operating safely for over 50 years with no significant issues.

Another reason I was surprised at the poor attendance was that the Committee to Ban Fracking posted a blog on its website telling people to “Please come early and line up outside the theatre.”  I can only assume that they were expecting a large turnout and therefore must have been disappointed.  I suspect this was especially true given that they co-hosted the event to try to raise money for their second attempt at a ballot initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing in Michigan.  Ban Fracking was unsuccessful in their first attempt, having only gathered just over 25 percent of the required signatures.

One would think, with that kind of response from the people of Michigan, they would at least be open to the possibility that hydraulic fracturing can be done in a safe manner.  However, Ban Fracking’s Campaign Director, LuAnn Kozma, stated that the lack of signatures was not for a lack of public support.  Specifically, Ms. Kozma said “the first signature drive failed because the committee couldn’t afford to hire petition circulators.”

That’s right, folks. The activists in Michigan are complaining that they weren’t able to pay enough people to get signatures on their anti-energy petition.

Moreover, if the turnout for this Gasland Part II screening is any indication of public support, the anti-fracturing effort is going to need much more than money to get this issue on the ballot.

As for the film itself, it has been extensively debunked here, here, and here.

However, what I did find interesting was the question and answer segment after the showing.  I asked Mr. Fox to respond to reports that some of the most vocal critics of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania had signed leases with oil companies. His somewhat unbelievable response, in front of 80 or so people, was that the articles were wrong, the reporters in question were not even considered “real” reporters, and the Associated Press was not to be trusted.

You couldn’t dream up a more dismissive and silly response if you tried, but there it was, for dozens of people in the room to witness.

To be fair to those in attendance, there were a few reasonable people wanting to discuss the issues, including how broader shale development in Michigan could affect them. One questioner wondered if hydraulic fracturing was such a “destructive, disastrous, and catastrophic” process, where were all the examples of devastation? Surely the fact that hydraulic fracturing has been used on over 13,000 wells here in Michigan suggests there should be plenty of disasters to cite. And yet state regulators have repeatedly affirmed that no such devastation exists. On the contrary, one example showing its safe use has been the ability of the Au Sable watershed to maintain its pristine water quality, even as it supports over 1,200 wells.

If the low turnout and general lack of enthusiasm in Royal Oak is any indication, Ban Fracking is going to have a difficult time convincing the voters to ban a process that has been shown to be safe and can bring jobs and economic stimulus to our state.  Furthermore, if activists continue to support people like Josh Fox, their ability to convince voters of this state will continue to diminish — regardless of how many people they pay to support their cause.

  • Bill Owen
    Posted at 07:54h, 21 October Reply

    Ahhh, poor Josh Fox – his 15 minutes of fame are almost over, and he’s got to double down by attacking real journalists who may actually be digging into the facts (vs. the fallacies) of drilling. I wonder how long it will be before he’s relegated to the dustbin of history where he rightfully belongs?

  • Todd Bazzett
    Posted at 23:30h, 24 October Reply

    Too bad this article is ENTIRELY FALSE AND MISLEADING!!
    There were approximately 300 people there (not the 150, then 80 that you describe).
    Josh Fox NEVER said the AP was not to be trusted. And what’s really funny is that after he answered your questions, you appeared to be satisfied with his response. I had to look at your picture here to confirm that YOU were actually writing this! You do look like the guy who asked the question.
    Regarding the devastation in Michigan, you forgot to mention the gentleman in North Branch who testified about the non-stop noise and odor during the initial fracking stages near his home. The hosts of the event were clear to identify the 50+ active high volume horizontal fracking well permits with a map provided by the department of environmental quality. You continue to attempt to confuse people with your claims of over 13,000 fracked wells, but High Volume Horizontal Fracking is what the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan seeks to ban. What are you talking about? How is conventional well drilling relevant to the discussion? The study from the University of Michigan acknowledges that they are apples and oranges and have little Michigan data to cite.
    No, the communication from the Committee to Ban Fracking and Josh Fox is clear and truthful. We have never claimed large scale damage in Michigan. Unfortunately for you, the majority of Americans are starting to understand this.
    On a side note, may I ask why would any American be in favor of High Volume Hydraulic Fracking, knowing that multinational corporations (such as the Chinese company Sinopec) have invested billions of dollars in the oil and natural gas development of our country (according to Wall Street Journal). Natural gas is currently at approximately $4.00/mcf in the US. The only way that oil and natural gas companies can profit from their development in Michigan is to net $6 to $8/mcf (according to the U-of-M study just released). We all know that in Asia and Europe, the going rate is between $11 – $12/mcf and that applications have been submitted to open an addition 16 export facilities on our coasts (Associated Press). If those ports open, high volume horizontal fracking will be done in large scale. Europe and Asia demand will come on-line and the price of gas will rise for all Americans. In the end, we will be left with a devastated environment and mineral rights owners who lease their land now will make minimal profit. How is this good for America and why are you in favor of fracking? Let me guess, you will say “jobs” and not mention that the fact checkers have clarified that a much lower number of jobs will be created than what the industry claims (Midwest Energy).
    Anyone who wants real information, please contact Unlike energy in depth, we will provide references to data from sources other than ourselves.

    • John Simaz
      Posted at 10:21h, 28 October Reply

      Hi Todd,

      Thank you for reading our blog. My question to Mr. Fox was answered how he often responds to even the slightest bit of scrutiny — by attacking the people asking questions. As the curtain is pulled back to expose anti-fracking activists as peddlers of misinformation, more and more people will go the way of those in Pennsylvania, where former opponents are increasingly acknowledging the safety of the industry and enjoying the benefits of natural gas. Maybe someday Mr. Fox — who lives in New York but always claims to live in Pennsylvania when it suits his purpose — will one day join them.

      Regarding your reference to the gentleman from West Branch, this event was not a hearing. So he was not “testifying” but rather speaking as to his perceptions of what was happening. During the hydraulic fracturing process, there is noise and traffic for the 7 to 10 days on average that it takes place. That is something worth discussing, but most would agree that it does not equal devastation — especially when you consider the significant benefits (jobs, tax revenue, etc.) that the activity accrues.

      The U of M study acknowledges that hydraulic fracturing is safe, that no proven cases of water contamination exist, and the risks associated with the process can be managed. As for the committee and Mr. Fox being “clear and truthful,” that would require a much longer response to address. But his deceptive movies suggest he is more interested in promoting himself and his agenda than in having a thoughtful conversation. See also:

      As to your sidenote, I am not an economic analyst. But judging by your statement, I would guess that neither are you.

      Again, thanks for commenting.

  • Taylor Tracy
    Posted at 15:04h, 08 December Reply

    Currently I am doing a research paper for an Economics class evaluating the negative externalities associated with Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania. Some credible information I have found comes from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. They released tests results that showed a connection between radioactive shale gas contaminants at a wastewater discharge site. “Radium levels were about 200 times greater in sediment samples collected where the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility discharges its treated wastewater into Blacklick Creek than in sediment samples collected just upstream of the plant” said Avner Vengosh. The study was done examining wastewater from hydraulic fracturing and stream water above and below the disposal site. Findings included water that contained high salinity and radioactivity levels, which is congruent with Marcellus shale flow back water. Additionally, high concentrations of salts and metals were found in the water including bromide. This raises significant public concern because drinking water treatment facilities located downstream may create toxic byproducts. Sediments from the stream bottom were also examined, and radioactive isotopes were found that are typically found in wastewater from Marcellus gas well operations. The amount of radioactivity exceeds the proper level for the safe disposal of radioactive materials. Furthermore, oil and gas exploration and production wastes are exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations. Nathaniel Warner, a postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth College stated, “While water contamination can be mitigated by treatment to a certain degree, our findings indicate that disposal of wastewater from both conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations has degraded the surface water and sediments”.
    From studies like this that come from credible and accurate sources, I think that there needs to be a more strict regulatory environment, and constant testing of groundwater resources by credible sources to ensure public safety.

    • John Simaz
      Posted at 10:53h, 10 December Reply

      Hi Taylor, thanks for your comment.

      The study you cited has some pretty significant flaws, including the fact that the Josephine treatment facility stopped receiving Marcellus Shale wastewater more than two years ago. Additionally, an exhaustive investigation by Pennsylvania state regulators determined that drinking water in the region was safe from radioactive materials. Finally, it’s worth noting that the study was funded by the Park Foundation, which has bragged that it is actively trying to fund an “army” of activists as part of its work to “oppose fracking.” Coincidentally, the Nicholas School at Duke University is also funded in part by the Park Foundation. More to your point, though, please check out the post we did on that study and its shortcomings:

      Once again, thanks for reading. Hopefully this answers some of your questions and concerns.

    • Fred Pyro
      Posted at 16:23h, 11 December Reply

      Taylor, Your findings are interesting, my concern is that they suddenly test these locations and indicate issues, what I would like to see is what or where are the test results BEFORE any flowback water was processed there???? Unfortunately, there are sites all across the country that currently have readings like you state, however, they are due to improper disposal of waste water by companies in the 50’s and 60’s, not due to oil and gas development.

  • Why Fracking for Gas So Controversial and Fracking for Oil Is Not
    Posted at 06:40h, 16 December Reply

    […] Fox has successfully made himself the face of shale gas opposition. He has little credibility left in the US but still gets serious attention in Europe, much like Howarth and Ingraffea, the Cornell peddlers […]

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