Josh Fox galvanized the U.S. movement to stop using high-volume hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas with his incendiary 2010 documentary "Gasland." Now he's back with a sequel — and this time, he's targeting an audience of just one.
"We want the president to watch the movie, and we want him to meet with the people who are in it," says Fox, whose "Gasland Part II" makes its debut on the cable television station HBO on Monday.
He contends President Barack Obama's professed support of drilling using the technique known as fracking to tap natural gas resources ignores the environmental and public health toll of the drilling boom: "It looks like he's really sincere and earnest in his desire to take on climate change, but he's got the completely wrong information and thus the completely wrong plan."
A typically bold statement from Fox, who's emerged as one of the most visible and outspoken foes of the natural gas drilling industry in the U.S.
Having made his name as an avant-garde theater director in New York City, Fox took an interest in drilling after a gas company approached him in 2008 about leasing his family's wooded 20-acre (8-hectare) spread in Milanville, Pennsylvania, near the Delaware River. What resulted was "Gasland," a polemic that argued energy companies are turning whole communities into toxic industrial wastelands.
"Part II" covers a lot of the same ground as the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated original, as Fox takes his banjo and camera on the road again to interview residents who say their air and water were contaminated by drilling. Beleaguered homeowners demonstrate how they can light their methane-laced tap water on fire — same as in "Gasland" — though the pyrotechnics in "Part II" are more spectacular.
What's new here is the focus on what Fox sees as the drilling industry's corrupting influence on politicians and regulators. In "Gasland Part II," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cast in the role of protector and defender. The agency starts to hold the industry to account for contaminating heavily drilled neighborhoods in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyoming. Then the drillers get to work, buying off politicians who, in turn, force the EPA to back off. Meanwhile, Obama's 2012 State of the Union address sets the tone for an election-year policy shift that replaces science with political expediency.
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