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Sparks Fly Over 'Gasland' Drilling Documentary

Feb 24, 2011 (Talk of the Nation)

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In 2008, filmmaker Josh Fox received a $100,000 offer to lease his 19 acres in northeastern Pennsylvania for drilling by the booming natural gas industry.

Fox promptly responded with a decisive "no thanks." Then he set off on a road trip across 24 states to investigate the environmental impact of natural gas drilling on local communities.

Along the way, Fox met dozens of families who say they have developed health problems after leasing their land for hydraulic fracturing, a type of natural gas drilling also known as "fracking."

Fox's resulting documentary, Gasland, questions the industry's portrayal of natural gas as a clean energy source. The film has drawn harsh criticism from the oil and gas industry, and Energy In Depth, a coalition of U.S. oil and natural gas producers, charges Fox with alternating "between misstating and outright ignoring basic and verifiable facts."

"I stand by the film 100 percent," Fox tells NPR's Neal Conan. "The purpose of this is to try to create a controversy or to create doubt on what is a very sincere and honest project that's been thoroughly researched and vetted."

Fox won't speculate if the Gasland controversy will influence its chances for the Oscar for best documentary, but he questions the wisdom of the natural gas industry's response to the film. "I think that it's created a lot of attention, and I think that was ... unwise for them to do."

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