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‘Journalism, Not Activism’ Sought by Filmmaker

‘FrackNation’ director: Most who understand drilling method support it

May 7, 2013
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

TRIADELPHIA - "FrackNation" Director Phelim McAleer said his documentary film is not intended to help the natural gas and oil industry make more money - it is only designed "to tell the truth."

"I really don't care about fracking. It is not in my interest to see that people make money," the native of Northern Ireland said during an exclusive interview with The Intelligencer prior to a Monday screening of the film at the West Liberty University Highlands Center. "I just wanted to see that journalism was done on fracking, not activism."

Roughly 50 curious people packed into one of the center's classrooms to view the screening of "FrackNation," a documentary that took McAleer and his crew to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, California, Poland, Great Britain and other places in search of what they consider the truth. He believes that "99 percent of people who understand fracking support it."

"There is no evidence that fracking has ever contaminated water," McAleer continued. "There are lots of scary videos, fraud, lies and misrepresentations."

Throughout the film, McAleer faces some threats from public officials, rival film directors and angry property owners who say fracking is dangerous. However, there are many in the film, particularly a group of residents in the Dimock, Pa., area, who support responsible natural gas drilling and fracking. Reports of methane contamination of drinking water supplies in the Dimock area - allegedly caused by fracking - cannot be proven, McAleer said.

Footage in the film shows McAleer confronting "GASLAND" filmmaker Josh Fox during a question and answer session in Chicago, particularly questioning Fox about the famous scene of water being lit on fire. McAleer asked Fox about instances of water being ignited well before fracking occurred in America. When McAleer asked Fox why this information was not included in "GASLAND," Fox said it "wasn't relevant."

"I knew there was an appetite for the truth about fracking when Josh Fox tried to shut me up," McAleer said.

McAleer said "FrackNation" was funded by 3,305 supporters who donated a combined total of $212,265. He said funds from oil and gas companies or their executives were explicitly rejected.

During the spirited question and answer session after the screening Monday, McAleer took a question from local resident Eric Fenster, who complained about the constant truck traffic and bright lights that affect those who live close to fracking sites. McAleer said this is a "short-term" problem.

Wheeling resident Tony Domenick said he supports fracking, noting he has been working for a company that serves a support role for the oil and gas industry for several years.

"This is going to be, for the next 50 to 100 years, the legacy we will give to our children and grandchildren," he said of the Marcellus and Utica shale boom.

McAleer did not rule out the possibility there could be industrial accidents involving fracking, comparable to mine subsidence in the coal industry. He said the film's goal is to "investigate serious allegations to show them fraudulent."

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