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    KATONAH — Opponents of natural gas hydrofracking turned out at a state hearing Tuesday on the issue, including the director of the documentary “Gasland.”

    But drilling industry representatives remained a no-show, claiming the event was not “thoughtful and rational.”

    Sponsored by state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Putnam County, the three-hour hearing featured Josh Fox, whose Oscar-nominated film has galvanized hydrofracking opponents across the country. The industry, which insists the drilling process is safe, has assailed the film’s accuracy. Hydrofracking involves injecting a high-pressure mix of chemicals, sand and water deep underground to crack gas-bearing rock.

    “Their unwillingness to participate in this hearing is an indictment on the industry,” Ball said in a statement. “I want to know what they’re afraid of. What do they have to hide?” Ball recently visited Pennsylvania gas drilling sites with Fox.

    Fox attacked the gas drilling industry for reaching legal settlements with people who claim their drinking water was tainted by drilling that bar landowners from speaking after the deal.

    That happened to Amee Ellsworth, a Colorado resident who was able to light her tap water on fire in one of movie’s most discussed scenes. The family said it began taking showers in the dark because of concerns a lighting fixture would trigger an explosion in the bathroom.

    Now, Ellsworth is legally barred under her settlement with a drilling company from discussing the situation. “You should not be able to sign away your First Amendment rights because you are cornered by a large corporation,” said Fox, who was filming the hearing for his planned “Gasland” sequel. “Gas companies are making these kinds of records disappear, so they can repeat their mantra that there has been no proven case of water contamination from hydrofracking. … Amee Ellsworth’s test of her drinking water has been removed from the public record, but I still have a copy of it.”

    Absent from the hearing was the gas drilling industry, which declined an invitation from Ball, a Westchester County Republican. (READ MORE)


    Publication date: 
    Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 00:00