ICYMI: Gasland director lies on national TV


Segment link:

Host: “Energy In Depth … actually has a webpage out called ‘Debunking Gasland.’ And they call out that clip that we showed [the Markham well clip]. They say that [the] methane is biogenic or naturally occurring, and that there are no indications of oil and gas related impacts to water wells. What’s your reaction?” Josh Fox: “This is insane. … The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission confirmed that [the Markham faucet] was oil and gas related.” (6:28)

But that’s a lie. Here’s what Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) inspector John Axelson actually found, according to the report he filed in Sept. 2008: “Collected water sample from [Markham’s] domestic water well. … Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic in origin. … There are no indications of oil & gas related impacts to water well.”

More from COGCC:

  • “[T]he water well completion report for Mr. Markham’s well shows that it penetrated at least four different coal beds. The occurrence of methane in the coals of the Laramie Formation has been well documented in numerous publications by the Colorado Geological Survey, the United States Geological Survey, and the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists dating back more than 30 years.”
  • “Laboratory analysis confirmed that the Markham [well] contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer. This determination was based on a stable isotope analysis, which effectively ‘finger-printed’ the gas as biogenic, as well as a gas composition analysis, which indicated that heavier hydrocarbons associated with thermogenic gas were absent.”
  • “[A]ll oil and gas wells near the Markham well were drilled and hydraulically fractured in 1991, except for two wells that were fractured in 2005 and 2006 … The records do not reflect any pressure failures or other problems associated with these wells that would indicate a loss of fracture fluid or gas from the well bore into the surrounding geologic formations.”

Fox: “It’s fluids injected down a wellbore that breaks apart rock formations where gas is trapped and has opened up other formations to drilling throughout New York and Pennsylvania that weren’t able to be drilled before. And somehow these chemicals, which are very dangerous, neurotoxins and carcinogens and the gas itself migrate into the aquifers…” (4:33)

But that’s a lie – according to environmental regulators in Pennsylvania:

  • “It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground have returned to contaminate ground water.” (Fmr. DEP secretary John Hanger, as quoted by Reuters, Oct. 4, 2010)
  • “Just a note about fracking: First of all, it’s standard operating procedure in Pennsylvania. And it’s important to point out that we’ve never seen an impact to fresh groundwater directly from fracking.” (DEP’s Scott Perry, May 27, 2010)
  • “If there was fracturing of the producing formations that was having a direct communication with groundwater, the first thing you would notice is the salt content in the drinking water. It’s never happened. After a million times across the country, no one’s ever documented drinking water wells that have actually been shown to be impacted by fracking.” (Perry)
  • “How many wells has fracturing damaged? I assume you’re referring to ‘how many drinking water wells.’? And in our experience, it’s been zero.” (Perry)
  • “I think some of the criticism has been useful, and I think some of it is uninformed, and some of it deliberately uniformed. There are some folks who want to shut down the [shale] industry and are willing to say anything to accomplish that goal.” (Hanger, as quoted by ProPublica, Feb. 10, 2010)

Host: “First of all, how did you even come to find out about this, and how did you slowly start to become an investigative reporter?” Fox: “This all sort of happened to me by accident, I live in the upper Delaware river basin in Pennsylvania… I was approached to lease my land for natural gas drilling in 2008. … Some of my neighbors [in Pennsylvania] were saying there were real environmental hazards.” (1:34)

But that’s a lie – according to Josh Fox himself:

  • “I’m 36, grew up in New York City.  One of my earliest memories is of the 1977 blackout when I was five.  My whole neighborhood was destroyed.  Every store window smashed and looted, Riverside Park [Upper West Side] was blaring with boom boxes and with heat.  It was a loud place to be.” (Josh Fox, interview with indieWIRE magazine, Feb. 4, 2009)
  • “Josh Fox, the New York artist whose fears about Marcellus Shale … near his family’s summer home in northeastern Pennsylvania inspired the movie … Fox has practically become a full-time activist since the movie was released last year, and now spends much time organizing anti-drilling groups, which use the film for fund-raising purposes.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 25, 2011)
  • “Josh Fox is based in New York City” (media advisory sent by Gasland PR agent Josh Baran, Feb. 9, 2011)


o    “In an interview with The Inquirer on Wednesday, [DEP secretary John] Hanger was harshly critical of Fox, whom he called a ‘propagandist.’”

o    “Hanger dismissed Gasland…as ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and ‘a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.’”


  • Denver Business Journal: “In Colorado, COGCC officials have said repeatedly that the state agency — after years of testing — has never found a link between fracking and groundwater contamination.” (11/1/10)


o    “By failing to evaluate the claims of his interviewees more carefully, he has left himself open to the kind of takedown carried out by Energy In Depth.”

o    “There are key problems with the film’s claims.”

o    “Fox’s defence for any lack of rigour was that he wanted to start a debate, rather than have the last word. But that doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility to thoroughly check his claims. … This is absurd.”



  • Towanda (PA) Daily Review: “If you want a relatively quick overview of the natural gas phenomenon, watch the 60 Minutes program. And by way of contrast, see “Gasland” and learn for yourself the difference between a responsible report and a hatchet job.” (Editorial, 1/19/10)


Wash. Examiner Columnist:Gasland is more agit-prop than factual documentary

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