By Mayara Guimaraes
Josh Fox has been loudly proclaiming the dangers of hydrofracking with his words and films ever since a gas company sought to lease his family’s land in Pennsylvania several years ago. After he conducted some research into the controversial process, he declined the $100,000 offer and set out to educate others on what he had discovered. The result was his Academy Award-nominated documentary, Gasland.
Now at work on Gasland 2 and petitioning local governments to prohibit fracking, Fox spoke to Our Town about the latest developments in New York State and why he thinks Gov. Andrew Cuomo is about to make a catastrophic mistake.
Our Town: Do you think that by sharing hydrofracking regulations with the gas industry before they were released to the public, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) gave the industry an advantage?
Fox: I think that this shows the deep and very cozy relationship between the gas industry and the agency that is supposed to be regulating on behalf of the people. What is even more shocking is that they were answering questions about the regulations, back and forth with the gas industry, but they weren’t answering the people’s questions. We submitted a list of 25 very technical questions, very similar questions to the ones sent by the gas industry, and we received absolutely no response. This could become a moment where people will say the gas industry has bought out our democracy. Why is that the industry gets to write the rules?
How is the fracking debate here in New York different than in other states?
New York had the benefit of taking a looking at what happened in Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania—they had the benefit of knowledge. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Rendell and Gov. Corbett rolled out the red carpet for the gas industry. The people did not know what fracking was, and as a result Pennsylvania is being trashed. It is a devastating situation. We have nightmare after nightmare in environmental disasters unfolding in Pennsylvania, and it is the same in Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. But New York had the benefit of looking at this and getting really well organized.
What are some things that the average New Yorker doesn’t know about fracking but should?
In general, we are used to turning the light switch on and off and not thinking where the energy comes from. That has to change. The fossil fuel industry started to run out of the easily obtainable oil, coal and gas. Now, a sane person would look at that and think, well, let’s start changing to renewable energy. That is not what the fossil fuel industry did. They decided to go to the extreme type of energy—extremely dangerous, extremely hard to get, involving extreme amounts of energy used to get the energy. What I am talking about is fracking, nonstop removal for coal or deepwater drilling on the Gulf of Mexico, which is unpredictable, as we all saw two years ago with the oil spill that they had. Right now, the clean water supply of New York City is on the hook.
What do you think of the possibility that Cuomo will only allow fracking in a few counties that are in favor of the gas industry?
There is nothing in this proposal from Cuomo that says it will stop the industry from working all over the state. The truth is that this is just a way to open the door and pass regulation; once these regulations are passed, the gas industry is just going to say, ‘Well, there is no such a thing as regulations that only are valid in parts of the state.’ And they will have a point. There is something called unequal protection under the law. There is no way to protect some people and not protect others under the same law. We went to Gov. Cuomo and told him not to do this—not to experiment with poor counties that are less politically represented and are desperate because of economic problems.
The one thing that the governor has done right so far is to not move forward with this proposal. I think that he has shown healthy skepticism. This is going to be disastrous for his legacy. We know by looking at the gas industry documents that these wells are going to leak. We know that there is a statistical probability of blowouts, of contamination incidents.
What can you tell us about your upcoming documentary, Gasland 2?
The film is an investigation about the level of the relationship between the government and the gas industry. There is a level of communication and collaboration between the government and the industry that is outsizing the citizen right now. Right now we are seeing a different type of contamination caused by fracking; it is not the water or the air, it is the contamination of our democracy.
Trackback from your site.