League of Women Voters President Sally Sears-Mack introduced the film “Gasland” at the Plattsburgh Public Library recently.
A recent showing of the documentary “Gasland” sparked a discussion at the Plattsburgh Public Library.
The 2010 film follows director Josh Fox as he travels the United States interviewing people who live in locations where hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking, a method of extracting natural gas by injecting chemical- and sand-laced water deep into the ground, is occurring.
The Plattsburgh League of Women Voters sponsored the event with People for Positive Action, another Plattsburgh-based group.
The showing took place Nov. 14, less than two weeks before the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it would be unable to meet a Nov. 29 deadline to propose new rules regarding hydrofracking in New York State.
The agency said it will not make a decision until the Health Commissioner completes its review of health impact data
Failure to meet the deadline means it could be another six months before a decision to allow or ban hydrofracking in New York State is determined.
In the meantime, the DEC will open hydro fracking to 90 days of public comment, starting Dec. 10.
Hydrofracking on the east coast involves removing the gas from between the layers of the Marcellus shale deposit, an underground swath of shale bedrock that extends from West Virginia to Albany and Syracuse.
Hydrofracking is currently not permitted in New York State, but it is allowed in other states, including Pennsylvania.
Sally Sears-Mack, president of the Plattsburgh League of Women Voters, introduced “Gasland” and said she hoped to raise awareness on the environmental concerns associated with hydrofracking and to encourage discussion on the topic.
After the movie, there was a question and answer session with Clinton Community College geology professor Gary Henry. He is also the advisor to the Plattsburgh League of Women Voters hydrofracking study group.
The first query posed was whether or not there is another side to the hydrofracking story that isn’t represented in the film, which portrays the practice as detrimental to environmental, and human, health.
“There isn’t another side as far as the environmental thing goes,” Henry said. “There will be contamination—some areas will potentially be despoiled from hydrofracturing contamination.”
But there is another side of the story that isn’t environmental—it’s economical.
“The only real plus is the economic side of it, the fact that we’ll have natural gas to meet our massive energy consumption needs in the United States, which far exceed energy consumption per capita than anywhere else in the world,” Henry said. “Some people will get jobs, and there will be more money coming into the state. That’s where New York State has to decide if they want to make that trade-off. Do we want to trade our natural gas resources for money and in effect have some areas suffer contamination as a result of that?”
Henry went on to say that shale is not as porous as other rocks and that hydro fracking is the only way to remove the gas.
But drilling vertically into the shale and injecting liquid horizontally between its layers can act as a lubricant and cause faults to shift, resulting in minor earthquakes, he said.
One of the attendees at the event, Mary-Alice Shevo, has seen Gasland twice, and said she learned a little more the second time around.
Shevo said she would like to see more people become involved in the hydrofracking discussion, and that events like the one at the Plattsburgh Public Library are a good way to get people’s attention.
“If we put as much money into wind and solar (energy), over the years we could be doing a lot more,” Shevo said. “The fossil fuel industry has really put the kibosh on the development of renewable energy. They have made enough money by wrecking the world. It’s time for it to stop.”
She added that, even though hydrofracking will never occur in the North Country, people in the region should still be concerned.
“I think we should join our voices to the voices of the people in the areas that are being affected,” Shevo said. “I think the stories about some of the people in the areas where fracking is actually going on should make us stop to think. Pollution does not stay put.”
The recent “Gasland” showing marks the fifth time Shaun O’Connell has seen the movie.
“I came tonight to show my support for the League of Women Voters showing the film,” O’Connell said. “It’s so important for people to see this film. It can change your life—it actually changed mine.”
O’Connell said the movie has inspired her to become more environmentally aware, and to educate others on the environment, too.
“I went from someone who has never done anything political in her life into an environmental activist,” O’Connell said. “It was a wake-up call. I’ve always been waiting for someone else to take care of it, but no one else is going to take care of it.”
The Plattsburgh League of Women Voters hydrofracturing study committee will meet on Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. at Sally Sears-Mack’s home. All are welcome to attend. For information, call her at 561-7199.