‘FrackNation’ draws largely supportive crowd
BY STACI WILSON
When Irish journalist Phelim McAleer attended a screening of the Josh Fox film “Gasland” and asked director about the now famous scene where running tap water is ignited, he said he received some interesting answers.
McAleer posted a clip of the exchange on the internet. “His response was to get lawyers to take it down.”
Posted to another site, McAleer said Fox’s lawyers again had the clip removed.
That’s when McAleer said he began to think, “There’s a story here.”
That story became the film “Fracknation,” born from McAleer’s self-described Irish stubbornness to get a story out after “someone would try to censor me.”
McAleer said that at the outset of making the film, “I thought it would be a story about the economic benefits of gas.”
But he said, the focus of the film began to shift as he discovered “misrepresentations” of the facts based upon “dodgy science.”
“It took the film in a whole different direction. There’s no point in having a booming economy if the land is useless,” McAleer said.
He says the film mostly centers on debunking some of the myths and legends that are now part of the drilling debate.
“There is so little science behind the allegations,” he said. “They can’t answer science so the get emotional and personal.”
He said he didn’t expect the personal attacks.
While local anti-driling activist Vera Scroggins led a celebrity tour that included Yoko One, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon, McAleer showed at one of the stops and attempted to question the celebs.
He got met by Scroggins hurling insults at him. A video of the confrontation was first posted to YouTube by Scroggins which was later removed; but not until after Energy In Depth, an organization that advocates on behalf of the energy industry obtained the clip.
According to McAleer, Fracknation is as much about journalism as it is about fracking.
He said when Craig Sautner claimed that there were two types of weapons-grade uranium in his water, “no one ever asked for evidence.”
“(Journalists) are more than stenographers, they could have instantly checked that,” he said.
And Monday night, after several showings around the area and in New York, McAleer brought FrackNation to Montrose, just a few miles north of Dimock, with a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 people.
At times, however, the real show was happening outside the theater.
A few natural gas opponents handed out literature and confronted McAleer and representatives from the National Association of Royalty Owners- PA (NARO-PA) who sponsored the free screening.
Just before the screening began, Scroggins had been told to move her camera equipment and tripod from an area in front of a fire exit from a man who said he was a member of the local fire company.
Montrose Borough Police arrived at the scene and Scroggins spoke with the officer outside of the theater. She said her things had been moved by the man without her permission.
McAleer also engaged in a back and forth with anti-gas advocate Craig Stevens who questioned whether or not both sides of the natural gas drilling story were actually told in the film as he said the filmmaker stated would be the case in a 2012 interview.
McAleer’s documentary film credits include, “Mine Your Own Business: The Dark Side of Environmentalism,” “Not Evil Just Wrong,” and “FrackNation.”