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FrackNation draws 35

Reporter Kevin Kearney, left, interviews FrackNation director Phelim McAleer.

By Kevin Kearney
June 10, 2013

The stand-out scene in the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland” where a homeowner’s water is set afire is sensational but misleading, said Phelim McAleer, director of the pro-fracking documentary “FrackNation,” which was screened Saturday at Sidetracks Bar & Lounge.

“It was very dramatic but untrue; it’s not journalism, it’s showbiz,” the Northern Ireland native said during a question-and-answer session after the screening, which was attended by about three dozen people and took place simultaneously to a “Gasland Part II” screening next door at Callicoon Theatre.

McAleer claims the director of the “Gasland” movies, Josh Fox, is more interested in drumming up fear than seeking the facts. The water-on-fire scene is misleading because, McAleer said, it was caused by naturally occurring methane in the area’s water, not by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“It’s very emotional, but it’s not rationale,” McAleer said. For decades people have been able to light water on fire, he said, noting that George Washington set fire to a river in New Jersey.

“FrackNation” tracks McAleer, an independent journalist, as he travels the U.S. and Europe, questioning “green extremists” in an effort to find the truth and to uncover the science he says is being suppressed by environmental activists who want fracking banned.

“Our goal … was to make an honest film that tells the truth about fracking. We wanted to put it in full context: economic, personal, scientific, political, historical. The truth needs to be out there,” McAleer told his audience, most of whom were impressed with the film.

Alan Scott of Long Eddy said the documentary shed fresh light on the subject. “It was very interesting and it gave you the other side of what’s going on.” Scott bought a CD of “FrackNation” and plans to pass it among his friends and acquaintances.

John Sutliff of Abrahamsville in Wayne County also had a positive reaction, saying the film did a good job of exposing the misleading aspects of “Gasland.”

“I’m pro gas,” Sutliff said, noting that years ago he had relatives in Oklahoma, where natural gas drilling was occurring, and they had no pollution to their water.

The issue is particularly relevant in New York and northeastern Pennsylvania since the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has put a moratorium on natural gas drilling within the basin. At one point in “FrackNation,” McAleer confronts Carol Collier, executive director of the DRBC about her on-screen credit in “Gasland.” She claimed her name was used without her permission and subsequently terminated the interview, then tried to confiscate the footage.

No confrontations at the screenings

About 350 people turned out to the Callicoon Theater for the screening of Gasland Part II and about 35 turned out for the showing of FrackNation at the Sidetracks Bar and Lounge next door.

There were three police officers on hand. Some people may have been expecting, or hoping for, some sort of public confrontation between the two crowds, but that was not to be.

According to several people at the events, FrackNation director Phelim McAleer had a camera operator in tow and attempted to talk with several people connected to the other screening, but those people would not engage.

The directors of both films have used on-camera confrontations to tell their stories, but these screenings will not likely be used in any upcoming film about hydraulic fracturing.