Why should we support Josh Fox?

Josh Fox is the maker of the documentary film Gasland, which exposes the practices and effects of “fracking” to extract natural gas; he is now making a sequel for HBO.  I have seen the first film and recommend it highly.  It opened my eyes to the harm already being done – not just “potentially” — to our groundwater, to people’s health and livelihood, from this barely-regulated, highly dangerous procedure.   The movie site: http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/

You may have heard that Josh Fox was recently arrested for attempting to film a Congressional hearing on fracking.  The story might have sounded as if it was only about some routine matter of getting a permit, and that this filmmaker kind of brought the arrest upon himself, that it was justified.

But really, there is a lot more to it than that.  I hope you will read the three points below (quotes are from two stories on Democracy Now, Feb. 2) , and that you will join me in supporting him, and in defending the public’s right to know. (I include a link to one petition in support of him at the end of this.)

  1. First of all, Fox was denied access because he had made a film on this subject, and was known for this work, contrary to the interests of the companies involved in fracking:

“…[o]ne of the members of the House committee, Maurice Hinchey [who was in the room]…said, “It is beyond unacceptable that acclaimed documentary director Josh Fox was arrested for trying to film a public hearing on groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion, Wyoming.” Congressman Hinchey goes on to say, “This was a public hearing, there was plenty of room for cameras, and a credentialed camera crew was told they would be denied access because they were working for a documentary filmmaker. This is blatant censorship and a shameful stain on [this] Congress. I stand by Josh’s right to record this hearing. His arrest was a huge mistake.”

 http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/2/obamas_support_for_natural_gas_drilling[italics mine] 

  1. Second, in support of the first: the rule invoked is apparently not a blanket rule prohibiting anyone from being there to film without a permit, but one whose purpose is more like “crowd control”:    [And by the way, if any of us should catch ourselves having thought it would be OK for Congress to keep anyone out they wish, I hope we will rededicate ourselves to transparency in government].

One of the other committee members, Rep. Brad Miller, spoke to the Chairman, at the time of the arrest:   “…he’s, I understand, filming an HBO documentary—an ABC crew showed up earlier, and they were turned away on the stated reason that they had not requested to film in advance. I think all those rules are to control access where there’s limited access. It is very clear that we have space in this room for either of them to testify—or to film this hearing. If you claim that that rule does not provide—does not allow them to film or, more accurately, allows you the discretion, the majority, the power to turn them away, I move that the rules be suspended to the end that the HBO—the fellow who wanted to film for HBO be allowed to film this hearing and that ABC News be allowed to film this hearing, and all God’s children be allowed to fill this hearing, until the room is too full to conduct our business.

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/2/gasland_director_josh_fox_arrested_at  [again, italics & bolding mine]

  1. Finally, the dangers of fracking (already happening in 34 states) are of national interest; contamination of groundwater is very serious, profoundly affecting our health and wellbeing; the dangers of shutting us out of government are always there. This particular case involves the shutting out of scientific evidence.

Here is Josh Fox’s own statement as to why he felt it was so important to film this hearing:    “Well,   basically, I was there to report on a story that I’ve been following very closely for three-and-a-half years. John and his fellow people from Pavillion, I’ve been documenting their cases of water contamination for three years, and it’s featured in the first film, Gasland. We continue to feature that in Gasland 2. So, this was a crucial hearing for us to tape, 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 Pavillion, Wyoming, to expose a link between fracking and groundwater contamination. And this is the first case in which EPA has come out and said, at least in this last 10 years, that the likely cause of groundwater contamination was frackin.g

And what was apparent to us was that this was going to be an attack on science from within the science and technology committee, that they had a panel that was stuffed with gas industry lobbyists, that there was—this was actually a way of trying to dismantle this EPA report. We wanted to be there to show that that was what the agenda was. We wanted to report on what happened. I was not interested in disrupting that hearing. It was not a protest action. I was simply trying to do my job as a journalist and go in there and show to the American people what was transpiring in that hearing…

 http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/2/gasland_director_josh_fox_arrested_at  [italics mine]

 The DN website includes complete transcripts of these interviews; you can read the whole story by scrolling down the page after the section that includes the headlines, the beginning of the story, and links to related stories. 

If you would like to join me in signing a petition to support Josh, go to: http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5377

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