‘FrackNation,’ a Documentary – NYTimes.com

frack_nation_pensioner

A Polish retiree bemoans her utility bills in the documentary “FrackNation,” about natural gas extraction.

By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

Directed by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda

1 hour 17 minutes; not rated

If your only exposure to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of extracting natural gas from shale — has been Josh Fox’s alarming documentary, “Gasland,” then “FrackNation” would like your attention. Claiming that Mr. Fox’s chilling conclusions are misleading at best, Phelim McAleer and his fellow directors, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, attempt to prove that shale gas just might be “the miracle of the 21st century.”

Narrated by Mr. McAleer, whose previous documentaries have also argued against environmental concerns, “FrackNation” is no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet. Methodically researched and assembled (and financed by thousands of small donations from an online campaign), the film picks at Mr. Fox’s assertions and omissions with dogged persistence. Much of what it reveals is provocative, like a confrontation with Mr. Fox about the presence of methane in the water supply decades before fracking began.

What’s clear is that Mr. McAleer knows his way around the Freedom of Information Act and has done his legwork. Besides talking to carefully selected scientists and water experts, he visits pro-fracking residents of Dimock Township, Pa., who are annoyed that their community is being characterized as a toxic wasteland. And he’s not above taking a sentimental detour to Poland to commiserate with a pensioner who can’t pay her energy bills, or reveling in the odd gotcha moment, like accusing a public official of “inappropriate ties” to Mr. Fox.

More than anything, “FrackNation” underscores the sheer complexity of a process that offers a financial lifeline to struggling farmers. Whether it also brings death to their water supply is something we won’t find out by listening to only half of the debate.

via ‘FrackNation,’ a Documentary – NYTimes.com.

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