Oil and gas commission seeks to correct errors in ‘Gasland’ documentary
State regulators are at odds with a documentary regarding occurrences of methane in drinking water in Garfield and Weld counties.
A Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission document seeks to correct what it says are errors in the film “Gasland.”
The film explores the impacts of natural gas development on residents in Colorado and other states. It won a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but industry advocates claim it is factually off base.
Colorado regulators hold the same view as it pertains to the film’s depiction of methane in water in the West Divide Creek area south of Silt, and in some Weld County water wells.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to study the industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing — injection of water, sand and chemicals into wells to crack open formations and facilitate oil and gas flow.
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director David Neslin said there has been no verified incident of fracturing harming groundwater. The commission said in its “Gasland” critique that it is correcting errors because “an informed public debate on hydraulic fracturing depends on accurate information.”
The commission said the film claims fracturing caused the 2004 gas seep into West Divide Creek, but a commission investigation found the problem was improper cementing of a gas well borehole. The film also focuses on methane along West Divide Creek on Lisa Bracken’s property, but tests have shown methane resulted from fermentation of organic matter and isn’t gas targeted by drilling, the commission said.
Director Josh Fox responded to industry criticism of the film on the “Gasland” website. Part of his defense points to the findings of Geoffrey Thyne, a geological consultant for Garfield County, who concluded gas from drilling is reaching creek waters in the Divide Creek area via natural fissures widened by fracturing.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also said “Gasland” dismissed “out of hand” its finding regarding gas that Weld County resident Mike Markham is depicted lighting at his water tap. The commission said that is shallow gas commonly encountered by water wells in the area rather than deeper gas produced by gas drilling.
Fox countered that Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea contends drilling and fracturing can foster migration of shallow gas into water supplies.
But Colorado’s oil and gas commission says Ingraffea “does not suggest that these circumstances apply” to Markham’s water well or another Weld County water well featured in the film.