In 2010, Josh Fox released a documentary called GasLand, about the effects of a method of natural gas drilling technique called fracking, which involves forcing millions of gallons of chemically-treated water underground to shatter rock and release trapped natural gas. Critics say it can contaminate drinking water, while proponents say it’s totally boss and the clean electricity it generates helps them shred on the keytar. Gasland profiled people who lived in places where the drilling had been done, who suffered adverse effects to their health and could do wonderfully cinematic things like light their tapwater on fire.
Yesterday, Fox was arrested while trying to film a congressional hearing by the House Science Committee on fracking, for a sequel to his documentary for HBO, Gasland: Bigger and Gassier. (Note: not actual title)
Fox was led out in handcuffs by the Capitol police shortly after 10 a.m., before the hearing could be gaveled into order. The “Gasland” director was attempting to film the hearing looking into EPA’s investigation of potential water contamination from natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyo.
“I’m within my First Amendment rights, and I’m being taken out,” Fox shouted as he was led away.
Fox has been charged with unlawful entry, according to Capitol police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.
An ABC news crew was also turned away from the hearing. The committee chairman has the discretion on whether to allow uncredentialed members of the media to film hearings, according to a democratic staffer.
The committee recessed after Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) called a motion to suspend the committee rules and allow for Fox and the ABC crew to film the hearing.
“… it’s clear we have space in this room to film this hearing,” Miller said. “If you claim that rule does not allow them to film, or allows you the discretion to turn them away, I move the rules be suspended so the fella who wanted to film for HBO be allowed to film this hearing and that ABC be allowed to film this hearing and all God’s children be allowed to film this hearing until the room is too full for us to conduct our business.”
Before Miller’s motion, subcommittee chairman Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) noted that the hearing is being webcast and that anyone filming the hearing would need the appropriate press credentials.
The hearing resumed nearly 30 minutes later, after Republicans voted to table both Miller’s motion to allow the filming and a second motion to recess the hearing. [Politico]
These hearings would be a lot more exciting if in order to table someone’s motion, you had to bodyslam him through a table like in wrestling. Then only the chairman could intervene, with a folding chair.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released 622 documents related to its study of water contamination tied to hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion, Wyoming, as Republican lawmakers criticized the findings.
The EPA documents include sampling data and raw findings from laboratories. The agency also said that results from the study, which found elevated levels of benzene and said the chemicals found were consistent with those used in fracking, shouldn’t be used to judge the safety of fracking in Pennsylvania or other states on the Marcellus Shale formation, where the geography is different.
“Our analysis is limited to the particular geologic conditions in the Pavillion gas field,” Jim Martin, the EPA administrator for the region that covers Wyoming, testified today at a subcommittee hearing of the House Science Committee.
The EPA’s draft report on groundwater contamination in Pavillion, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Salt Lake City, was the first to link the drilling technique to spoiling water. The EPA has moved to establish a peer-review panel to examine its findings.
The EPA is waiting for information from Encana Corp. (ECA), which has 123 wells in that area, on the water samples the company took at the same time as the EPA, Martin testified. Encana has criticized the EPA’s results, and said the agency didn’t take into account naturally occurring chemicals.
Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, the Republican chairman of the Energy and Environment subcommittee of the House Science Committee, criticized Martin and the EPA, saying that the study of groundwater contamination was an example of “politics trumping policy and advocacy trumping science.” [Bloomberg]
I’m sure I’ll get a million wingnut trolls in the comments telling me all the reasons Fox is an A-hole hippie, but politics aside, you tend to look bad when you start throwing people out of public hearings. Saying “credentialed members of the press only” is sort of counter to the idea of a free press, isn’t it? They were from ABC and HBO, not FilmDrunk and ClitParty.com. Andy Harris is undoubtedly getting money from the gas companies, and even when the EPA is already essentially conceding his point (“The agency also said that results from the study… shouldn’t be used to judge the safety of fracking in Pennsylvania or other states…”), he’s still screaming that their study is a farce and having people thrown out of public hearings. As if anyone’s going to read this and go, “That Andy Harris, what a guy! He really stands up for proper paperwork, even when it’s unpopular!”
I guess what I’m saying is that I expect people to be totally corrupt and biased, but I’m frequently surprised at how moronically transparent they are about it. If you’re going to be a corrupt asshole, at least hide it better. It’s sad when you’re too dumb to even be self-serving. We have by far the dumbest, most sociopathic people in our society making all our policy decisions. Great system.
< Dick joke. >