One day, Josh Fox received an offer which at first glance was very difficult to refuse: $100,000 in exchange for natural gas drilling rights on his family property located at the DelawareRiver Basin. However, instead of readily accepting the offer, Josh Fox decided to investigate first on the possible effects of natural gas drilling (commonly through a process called “hydraulic fracturing” or “hydrofracking”) on health and the environment. Travelling around the country and interviewing property owners whose lands were affected by natural gas drillings, Josh Fox found out that there are serious environmental and health risks involved with hydrofracking, especially affecting local water sources. His travels and interviews were captured via this film entitled “Gasland.” In this reflection paper, I would like to focus on two major issues that I saw in the film: a. a discussion of the effects of natural gas drilling (especially through hydrofracking) on health and the environment as well as the counter-arguments used by people from the energy sector; and the relationship between the increase of natural gas exploration projects and the 2005 Energy Policy Act. One of the major processes involved in extracting natural gas as shown in the film is “hydraulic fracturing” or “hydrofracking” – a process where over millions of gallons of chemically infused water are pumped underground with the purpose of fracturing the rock where gas deposits are located therefore improving gas flow.
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The problem that Josh Fox found out is that such process actually contaminates air and water in the affected area. Due to hydraulic fracturing, as Fox discovered, the natural water table is affected by the infusion of chemicals, making nearby surface and tap water contaminated with harmful chemicals that is highlighted by the scene where tap water literally flamed when exposed to a cigarette lighter. In this case, I think that most of such incidents are largely undocumented even in mainstream news and are even downplayed by local environmental agencies due to the fact that this industry contributes billions of dollars to the economy. The energy sector is one of the largest sectors in the national economy, and due to the rising prices of conventional fuel such as oil, more and more energy companies are seeking to exploit alternative sources of energy including natural gas. With this scenario, I personally believe that health and the environment are being sacrificed in exchange of improvement of the economy which is always the top priority of state and federal agencies. It is important to note that The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) actually presented a counter-argument to the negative effects of hydraulic fracturing on water sources citing a study wherein there is no scientific evidence pointing to the exploration of natural gas as the culprit for making water flammable. Given that there are currently environmental protection laws that seek to regulate activities that may pose potential harm to the environment, it may seem trivial that some energy companies that explore natural gas continue to operate despite contaminating air and water sources. While it is true that some landowners actually received monies and compensation from energy firms, it is also important to note that hydraulic fracturing was actually made exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The interesting fact here is that one of the proponents of this bill, Dick Cheney, was actually a former executive of one of the largest energy forms on the country, Halliburton. In this case, I think that as long as energy lobbyist continues to play a dominant role in Congress, it would be difficult to regulate corporate activities that pose harm to health and the environment.