Drilling documentary tells landowners’ side
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Liz Mobaldi could only put her hand to her mouth Monday as she watched herself in a new documentary that focuses on the health and other impacts of natural gas development on Garfield County residents.
“It was great,” she said later of the movie “Split Estate,” which Garfield County commissioners and members of the public watched in a standing-room-only meeting room.
“But I don’t think I looked too good,” Mobaldi added.
Even after moving from the Rifle area to Grand Junction, Mobaldi still struggles with lingering ailments she believes were caused by exposure to chemicals associated with drilling.
While at their Rifle-area home, Liz and her husband watched their well water fizz and their house paint peel as if a paint stripper had been applied. She experienced nausea, bleeding, redness and burning of skin, and the onset of a speech syndrome that to this day causes her to use foreign words and accents.
The Garfield County debut of “Split Estate” on Monday earned credit as a fine piece of filmmaking even from representatives of the county’s two leading energy producers.
But Sher Long of EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) said the film, while compelling, tells “only one side of the story.”
She said the film focused on incidents that happened four or five years ago and doesn’t recognize companies’ use of technology to reduce impacts and their improved communications with residents.
“We’ve come a long way,” Long said.
Said Donna Gray of Williams Production, “Williams believes it’s being environmentally responsible. We take these health issues very seriously.”
Filmmaker Debra Anderson said the film purposefully takes a sympathetic view toward landowners, seeking to put a human face on drilling’s impacts.
“I don’t think the landowners’ point of view is told very many places,” she said.
The film examines drilling issues in Garfield County and New Mexico, including cases where development of separately owned, underground mineral rights has occurred without the landowners’ consent because of split-estate laws.
Garfield Commissioner Mike Samson said it’s important for commissioners to explore the concerns raised in the film.
“Whenever you see somebody’s health taken away from them, that’s a sad deal,” he said.
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance followed up Monday’s film showing by calling on commissioners to support federal legislation requiring disclosure of chemicals used by energy developers in hydraulic fracturing. Commissioners expect to decide on the matter in November.