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

Environment New York

As the new Matt Damon movie, Promised Land, opened in theaters last week, Environment America sounded the alarm about the very real damage fracking is doing in communities across the country.

“Spoiler alert: The truth about fracking is even worse than what you see in the movie,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America. “Dirty drilling operations have contaminated drinking water and made nearby residents sick.”

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.

Fracking is far more than a Hollywood fable. For viewers who want to learn more about fracking’s impact on real people, Environment America affiliate Environment New York has posted Marcellus Shale Stories – a short film in which real Pennsylvania residents tell their personal stories of how fracking has affected their lives, their health and their environment.

In addition, Environment America cites the following examples of fracking damage elsewhere:

  • In several communities – including Dimock, Pa., Bainbridge, Ohio, and Pavillion, Wyo., residents’ drinking water wells have been contaminated with dangerous levels of methane and/or toxic chemicals from fracking;
  • In Colorado, 340 drilling leaks and spills have contaminated groundwater in the past five years.
  • In the Dallas-Forth Worth region of Texas, air pollution from oil and gas extraction is estimated to equal to 70% of the smog-forming pollution from all cars and trucks in the area.
  • Fracking wastewater – laced with cancer-causing chemicals and even radioactive materials – has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico.

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 largely plays out on the large screens of state legislatures and agencies, Environment America’s affiliates are seeking to halt the advance of fracking in several states – including New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to make a decision on the issue this spring.

“Here in New York, we have been living through a three-year version of the battle in Promised Land, complete with lies and deception by the oil and gas industry,” observed Eric Whalen, field organizer for Environment New York. “We can only hope for a last-minute plot twist, in which Governor Cuomo sees dirty drilling for what it is and decides to keep all of New York frack-free.”