FrackNation Creator Phelim McAleer Fibs About Parker County's Flaming Hose Case
Fracking is finally getting the Hollywood treatment. Promised Land, an anti-fracking film conceptualized by The Office's John Krasinski, co-written by Dave Eggers, starring Matt Damon and Hal Holbrook, and directed by Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting), is set in a hard-luck Pennsylvania farming town. Damon must win hearts and minds to pave the way for the "$9 billion" oil and gas company he represents, while confronting his role in changing, for good or ill, these communities forever.
-"Fire in the Hole"
It hasn't even hit theaters yet and already it's been decried as a hit job on an industry that has fundamentally transformed America's energy landscape. Reasonable minds may disagree about whether or not the film is unfair or inaccurate, but surely we can disagree without inventing facts to support our positions.
Case in point: Phelim McAleer, the pro-industry filmmaker behind FrackNation, penned an op-ed in the New York Post recently about Promised Land. To illustrate what he regards as the fecklessness of claims that fracking is hazardous to health and the environment, he points to the clean bill of health the EPA gave Dimock, Pennsylvania's, water, which had become for the anti-fracking crowd the symbol of an industry that degrades the communities it alights on.
McAleer also discusses briefly, by way of example, the case of the flaming water well in Parker County, which we've written about at length ("Fire in the Hole"). "There was Wolf Eagle Environmental Engineers in Texas, a group that produced a frightening video of a flaming house water pipe and claimed a gas company had polluted the water," he writes. "But a judge just found that the tape was an outright fraud -- Wolf Eagle connected the house gas pipe to a hose and lit the water."
The judge, in this case, has since recused himself because he bragged about sticking it to the plaintiff and water well owner, Steve Lipsky, during his failed bid for re-election. Yet that's not even the part of his statement I have a problem with. It's the allegation that Alissa Rich's Wolf Eagle attached a water hose to the house gas pipe.
No one -- not even Range Resources, the fracking company Lipsky accuses of contaminating his water well -- has ever made any such claim. This, McAleer has produced from an apparently fecund imagination. Range and the judge accused Lipsky and Wolf Eagle of attaching a hose to the head space of Lipsky's water well and passing it off as a water hose. He never said anything about a house gas line.
Neither Lipsky nor Wolf Eagle has ever denied that the hose was attached to the head space. It had to be done in order to vent the natural gas accumulating in the well head. In fact, it was the water well driller who placed it there, for safety reasons. Even the most cursory viewing of the video on YouTube makes it abundantly clear that this isn't a water hose. Nothing but flame issues from its mouth.
McAleer's claim isn't one I've ever seen, even in the most partisan corners of the commentariat. And it's certainly not one I came across in reviewing thousands of pages of court documents, nor is it one I heard in interviews with representatives of Range Resources. He simply made it up, which is unfortunate. Let's argue about fracking, by all means, but let's do it based on the facts as they are, not as we wish them to be.