“Stories from the Shale: Pennsylvania”

You might know about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Maybe you’ve seen the iconic flaming tap water or listened to a radio show talking about natural gas being a “bridge fuel” that’s “cleaner than coal.” But you’ve probably never thought about the people who’ve seen natural gas activity contaminate their water wells and destroy their livelihoods. The people who’ve battled and reached out for help––the people whom justice and freedom have ignored. Our project hopes to show what those changes have been like through professional videography, photography, and writing, and cater it toward an audience of students.

Many documentaries have been filmed about fracking, but none of them have had a written and photographic element to accompany them. Our project will include cinematography, provocative photos, and an accompanying written story with background information, web links, and a voice that speaks for the harmed. Affected landowners will tell their story on camera while visually striking photos and a lyrically pleasing narrative follow below. Film buffs will burst at the sight of the videos, photographers will debating the symbolic significance of the photos, and writers will nod vehemently at the emotional flow of the narratives.

The interviewees will include both people who’ve already been directly affected by shale gas infrastructure and people who will be threatened in the near future. Some have received death threats, while others have worked for the industry and seen the spills, lack of regulations, and problems firsthand. Others, still, are awaiting impacts like the approval of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that would transport natural gas to proposed export facilities like Cove Point, freezing the gas and shipping resulting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) overseas to the global market, opening up an avenue for more aggressive drilling.

This isn’t about climate change. This is about showing the public health dangers of the fossil fuel industry and their practices. The dreams of the affected are being stolen: their plans to build houses and grow organic gardens have been abandoned and any hope of safely raising their kids is drilled 15,000 feet into a deep deposit of the Marcellus Shale. Pipeline and gas drilling activities have left these people and their families with chronic health problems, slashed property values, and poverty, despite the industry’s continued promises of safe drilling practices and economic prosperity.

The people in these testimonials will demonstrate what really happens when the gas industry comes in threatening and manipulating their way into signed property leases. Shale gas is not a black and white issue, and a lot of claims of gas drilling water contamination aren’t proven, but many are­. One only needs to see the documents, hear the stories, and feel the pain of the affected to understand that this issue, at its core, is one of energy justice and freedom––clean water is a right and everyone deserves it.