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Policy: Environment & Energy

'Gasland' director: Obama’s EPA caving to industry pressure

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Beltway Confidential,Movies,Sean Higgins,Environment,Energy Department,EPA,Analysis,Energy and Environment

Josh Fox, director of the movie "Gasland" and a leading voice in the environmentalist anti-fracking movement, slammed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision last week to turn over an investigation into groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, to state officials there. In a phone interview this afternoon, he told the Washington Examiner that President Obama’s administration was folding under pressure from the oil and gas industry. He further claimed that this was also true of other cases where the EPA investigated fracking but ultimately did not find evidence of contamination.

He also briefly addressed the footage of him appearing in the pro-fracking documentary "Frack Nation," claiming the footage was dishonestly edited.

Fox’s next film, "Gasland 2," focuses on the Pavillion case.

A transcript of the interview is below:

Fox: Is the EPA for sale? The thought that this investigation, which was attacked by the state of Wyoming has now been handed over to the state of Wyoming … which was openly hostile to this investigation from the beginning. Openly hostile.  And the drilling company is a foreign company, a Canadian company, is giving $1.5 million to the investigation. I can only imagine how that is going to turn out.

We have seen, time and time again, our state regulatory agencies be entirely corrupted by the influence of oil and gas. It is very clear. There is a report called "Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania," which points out how the Department of Environmental Protection in Pennsylvania has been taken over by, influenced by, the oil and gas industry. I’ve seen that at every level, whether it was state, federal or local.

Examiner: So basically you are alleging the EPA has been bought off or something of that nature?

Fox: I think it is outrageous that the state that attacked EPA just for being there has taken over this investigation. I know these people personally. I have been investigating the case for five years. I have watched how the science in that case has been attacked over and over and over again. And one of the lead attackers on the science has been the state of Wyoming. To turn the investigation over to Wyoming with a $1.5 million contribution from the drilling company doesn’t sound responsible to me.

Examiner: Do you have any thoughts on why the EPA did it?

Fox: Well, in "Gasland 2," we have watched three different EPA investigations get attacked and fall apart in the face of industry pressure. And this is one of the big ones, you know? The investigation in Dimock (Pennsylvania) where the science was very, very clear: The water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas. We watched the EPA fold on that investigation. A case in Weatherford, Texas, where the evidence was very, very clear: Range Resources contaminated that person’s water. We watched EPA fold on that investigation. The case in Pavillion made it through and now we are watching it be attacked.

This all starts when [President] Obama starts to embrace natural gas drilling. But I don’t want to speculate as to why. All I know is there is a history of oil and gas dominating our regulatory agencies. And this seems to fit that script.

Examiner: What do you think that this will mean for the future of the investigation in Wyoming?

Fox: Well, there is a big public outcry right now about it. There are petitions online. The residents are extremely unhappy because they know exactly bad the state has been in protecting them from these multinational corporations. Let me be clear: All across America, multinationals, like Ecana — which is, again, a Canadian Company — are coming in and destroying the area that people in America live in and violating their human rights and violating their civil rights by creating a toxic atmosphere and a toxic environment for them to live in. Our government should be standing up for those Americans. EPA was doing that in Pavillion. Now — somehow, mysteriously — they are off the job. And everyone is shocked.

Examiner: You do seem to be alleging a conspiracy at some level in the government.

Fox: I am not alleging a conspiracy. What I am telling you is this — It is very clear, you can look at it from a lot of different, well-documented places — oil and gas has a tremendous influence on our regulatory agencies. They have supplanted the government’s ability to protect Americans. It is not conspiratorial. You can watch it happening. I would point out to you one case, one state in which that has happened and it has been monitored very clearly has been the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. But it shouldn’t be conspiratorial to think that there is enormous corporate influence on our government right now.

Examiner: You told my friend Dave Weigel at Slate Magazine that the footage of yourself in the pro-fracking documentary "Frack Nation" was a “Shirley Sherrod thing." I was wondering if you could elaborate on what you meant by that.

Fox: Oh, sure. When you edit comments to portray them in the opposite meaning and in a false light, you have misrepresented the comments.

Examiner: Well, how did they edit it to change the meaning? What was the original meaning of what you said?

Fox: I gave a very long explanation about how biogenic and thermogenic gas — both which can be liberated by drilling. That is also very clear from the science. Biogenic and thermogenic gas, both of them can be liberated by drilling. So when the industry comes in and says this was biogenic gas, that is not a clear, that does not absolve the drilling in that case. That was the majority of what I said. And that never made it in. Anyway, I’m done talking.

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