Fracking on Film

Media Contacts
Margaret McCall

As Promised Land opens, group warns of dirty drilling damage to health and the environment

Environment Colorado

As the new Matt Damon movie, Promised Land, opened in theaters on Friday, Environment Colorado sounded the alarm about the very real damage fracking is doing in here in Colorado.

“Spoiler alert: The truth about fracking is even worse than what you see in the movie,” said Margaret McCall for Environment Colorado. “Right here in Colorado, 340 drilling leaks and spills have contaminated groundwater in the past five years.”[1]

Promised Land is set in a fictional town in western Pennsylvania, where a natural gas salesman works to convince farmers to hand over the rights to their land to allow hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), the controversial form of gas drilling that injects chemical-laden fluid deep into the ground to force natural gas to the surface. Damon’s character meets resistance from the community as more and more residents consider the terrible effects that fracking could have on their land, water and health.

The movie release just preceded today’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meeting to discuss rules regarding drilling and fracking in our communities, specifically about testing to protect water quality and the required setback distance between fracking operations and residential areas. Many organizations have voiced their concern because the current proposals are so weak.

In addition, Environment Colorado cites the following examples of fracking damage here in Colorado:

– In Colorado and New Mexico, an estimated 1.2 to 1.8 percent of all gas drilling projects result in groundwater contamination.
– In Garfield County, CO, improper cementing of a fracking well caused natural gas to vent for 55 days into a surface waterway; the cost of groundwater remediation in this case is unknown, but likely runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.
– A recent study by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that residents living within a half-mile of natural gas wells in one area of Colorado were exposed to air pollutants that increased their risk of illness.[2]

Moreover, the fracking boom is turning forest acres and rural landscapes into industrial zones and releasing global warming pollution. And yet the dirty drilling practice is exempt from key provisions of our nation’s environmental laws.

And so, as the storyline of Promised Land plays out on the big screen of the Governor’s administration, Environment Colorado is seeking to put a hold on fracking until it is proven to be safe. Communities around Colorado, such as the cities of Longmont and Fort Collins, have already spoken up to do just that.

Yet unlike the fictional town in Promised Land, communities here in Colorado might soon lose the right to decide whether to allow dirty gas drilling or not. While Environment Colorado defeated attempts to have the legislature strip local control last year, the oil and gas industry is redoubling its efforts to do so in light of Longmont voters’ approval of a local fracking ban.

“The right to say no to dirty drilling doesn’t just belong on the Hollywood screen,” said Margaret McCall of Environment Colorado. “Every community here in Colorado has the right to protect its health and environment from fracking, and we will defend that right every step of the way.”


1 See Bruce Finley, “Drilling Spills Reaching Colorado Groundwater, State Mulls Test Rules,” The Denver Post (December 9, 2012) at…

2 See the Environment America report “The Costs of Fracking: The Price Tag of Dirty Drilling’s Environmental Damage,” fall 2012, available at