WASHINGTON, DC — There are a couple of different videos circulating on the Internet showing the arrest of filmmaker Josh Fox. He took a camera crew to a hearing of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Environment on February 1. The hearing concerned a draft report, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regarding hydraulic fracturing.
Fox was told he was not allowed to film and he was asked to turn off his camera. He refused and was arrested and led away from the room in handcuffs. As this was occurring he said, “This is a public hearing, I’m within my First Amendment rights, and I’m being taken out.” Andy Harris, the chairman of the subcommittee, later said that Fox was arrested because he lacked the necessary credentials to film the meeting.
Fox, who was nominated for an Oscar for his documentary Gasland and who is working on a sequel, noted some irony in the arrest. He told the Huffington Post, "Congressional staffers are actually coming in to watch what's going on and they start videotaping! That's why you have a videotape of me getting arrested—congressional staffers all had their iPhones out. And the only one being threatened with arrest is me."
It’s unclear if the staffers were required to have credentials; the subcommittee did not respond to an email requesting clarification. After the arrest, however, the subcommittee posted a press release on their website saying, “Personnel providing coverage by the television and radio media shall be currently accredited to the Radio and Television Correspondents' Galleries.
The individual removed was not accredited by the House Radio and TV Gallery and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by Capitol Police.”
Fox later told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now he wanted to film the meeting because “what was going on there was a clear and brazen attack on the EPA, and on the meticulous three-and-a-half year investigation that took place in the small town of Pavilion, WY to expose a link between fracking and groundwater contamination.”
In fact, the committee did criticize the report in a press release issued after the meeting. It said, “Witnesses highlighted a number of concerns with EPA’s December 8, 2011 draft findings, including the failure of the agency to adequately consult with state and federal experts, the release of conclusions prior to adequate peer review, lack of adherence to information quality guidelines, a lack of data transparency, and sampling and monitoring well issues that call into question many of the results.”
The press release also quoted Tom Doll, State Oil and Gas Supervisor at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “The EPA conclusion that hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination is limited to the data found in a single sample from single monitoring well located on a natural gas field in central Wyoming. Yet this fact is lost in the public reaction to EPA’s announcement and results in a worldwide damnation of hydraulic fracturing.”
But this was also in the press release, “Jim Martin, regional administrator of EPA’s Region 8, described EPA’s preliminary findings as indicating that ‘groundwater in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.’”
Fox’s arrest seemingly brought the hearing much more attention than it would have otherwise achieved: there are more than 400 reports from various news outlets available in the Internet. Fox told Huffington Post, “If it weren't for the campaign contributions going to the Republican Party on behalf of the oil and gas industry, I would not have been arrested.”