Hollywood has added its lustrous sheen to a controversial documentary that pillories Calgary's Encana Corp. and the entire shale-gas industry over the alleged impacts of hydraulic fracturing drilling techniques.
Gasland - an American film written and directed by Josh Fox - has been nominated for a 2010 Oscar in the feature documentary category, giving it the stamp of approval from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The film was aired in the U.S. on HBO, and has since become required viewing for activists who oppose the oil industry's practice of injecting chemical-laced water into rock formations to release the natural gas. Gasland was widely circulated in Quebec, where many residents and local politicians oppose drilling over fears it will poison their drinking water.
The documentary featured Encana's problems in Colorado, where the company drew a heavy fine for allowing methane to escape from a well into groundwater. What it doesn't say, however, is that the Colorado regulator determined the leak was caused by improper cementing of the well casing, not by hydraulic fracturing.
The state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued a lengthy rebuttal to some of the key claims in Gasland, regarding the poisoning of three Weld County water wells as a result of industry's drilling. The commission noted that regulators had determined that two of the three wells were tainted by naturally occurring methane.
The Environmental Protection Agency is now reviewing whether shale gas drilling presents a threat to groundwater or surface water.
But the motion-picture academy clearly likes documentaries with clear villains, and none serve that role better than the oil industry. Unless perhaps it is Wall Street. Among Mr. Fox's nominated competitors for Oscar is Inside Job, which details how greedy bankers brought down the U.S. economy.