One of the most frightening pieces of evidence in Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary against hydraulic fracturing — Gasland — is a clip showing tap water being set on fire. Filmmaker and journalist Phelim McAleer isn’t trying to deny that the water is flammable, but he is trying to say that it’s not a result of “fracking,” a controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale rock.
According to McAleer, his wife Ann McElhinney and Magda Segieda who are working showing a different side of fracking, water has been flammable in some parts of the country since 1669. Not only are they creating a documentary of their own — FrackNation — to debunk what they believe are untruths told in Gasland, but more recently, they’ve posted a billboard on Route 17 in Rock Hill, N.Y., toward Pennsylvania to spread the word about the history of flammable water.
“This is something that people need to know,” McAleer said in an interview with the Blaze. “The truth needs to be told.”
According to McAleer, Fox picked a powerful image to spread an anti-fracking message but the ability to light water on fire, seemingly an oxymoron, is nothing new. McAleer sites Native Americans and early settlers referring to “burning springs.” There are several areas around the country, including in West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, where natural gas has been reported to bubble up through water making it ignitable.
Here you can see the clip from Gasland with the water being set on fire:
McAleer, who said he hates to say this, said in this instance Fox is an “unethical journalist.” McAleer references a time when he publicly questioned Fox about his exploitation of burning water in the documentary without acknowledging that this phenomenon has been known outside of fracking. Fox responded saying it wasn’t “relevant” to the documentary to include that information.
“Even if it’s not relevant, you have to bring it up to knock it down, ” McAleer said explaining what would be a good journalistic move. “But he doesn’t do that.”
In fact, McAleer filmed Fox’s initial response and posted it on YouTube. It was when Fox’s “Manhattan lawyers” forcibly had the clip taken down that McAleer decided there was a story there; that something was being hidden.
“As an Irishman, I am not used to being told to shut up,” McAleer said, noting that this moment is what spurred he and his wife to begin making the documentary FrackNation.
McAleer fought the video being taken down and won. His confrontation with Fox now remains posted on the site. Check it out:
In a statement, McAleer said “As journalists, we felt it was important to bring to light the truth and counter the common, inaccurate scare stories about ‘exploding tap water.’”
When asked by the Blaze if flammable water has been around for centuries, then why is it now being associated as a negative impact of fracking, a process that creates cracks in shale rock to extract natural gas, he said it is because it is a frightening image. To McAleer, there are “hard core” environmentalists who are anti-fossil fuel and anti-big business. There are also those who are currently in multi-million dollar lawsuits who, to win, would depend on the water being contaminated from fracking activities. Both of these groups, McAleer said benefit from associating flammable water with fracking.
One of the first clips released from the FrackNation at the end of February, covers residents’ opinions on the media’s “unfair” and “half-truth” coverage of water contamination. Watch that clip:
In February, when the Blaze reported on McElhinney’s appearance at CPAC, FrackNation had raised $62,000 from 775 backers on its Kickstarter site. Kickstarter is a funding platform that allows anyone to raise money for projects by setting a monetary goal for donations and a deadline. If the deadline isn’t met, then all the money is returned to backers.
McAleer and McElhinney, who are also known for responding to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” with “Not Evil Just Wrong,” set a goal of $150,000 for FrackNation. At the time of this posting, it has been surpassed with more than $167,000 raised from more than 2,500 backers. View FrackNation’s Kickstarter site here.
“$150,000 is the absolute minimum we need to complete the film,” said McAleer in a statement. “The more support we get for FrackNation, the better the film will be, allowing the film to combat the one-sided media coverage about fracking by reaching the broadest audience possible with this story of the truth.”
For more info on FrackNation, watch this:
On the flip side, Fox was recently funded $750,000 from HBO to film a sequel to Gasland.
McAleer said he expects the FrackNation to be completed sometime in June. With regard to the billboard — and FrackNation as a whole — McAleer said he has received both supportive and negative emails.
“It’s been overwhelming, amazing,” McAleer said. “As a foreigner coming to America, it’s very humbling. I feel like I’m living the American dream. I want to tell your story.”