Oil & Gas
7:20 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Pro-Fracking Discussion Comes to Aspen

Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer.
Credit Huffington Post/Associated Press

Supporters of oil and gas production will hold a discussion tonight in Aspen. The Pitkin County Republicans are hosting filmmakers who have challenged the premise and facts behind the anti-fracking film “Gasland.” One of the goals is to figure out whether or not fracking is a good idea.  

    Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney are Irish filmmakers who also happen to be married. They put out the film “FrackNation” last year, aiming to fact check scenes in the widely popular “Gasland.” The 2010 film won an Emmy and has galvanized anti-fracking campaigns in Colorado and around the country.  For McAleer and McElhinney, one easy target in “Gasland” was the memorable moment where a Front Range resident lights his tap on fire. Here’s Phelim McAleer:

“Josh Fox, the director of Gasland, knew that one of the most dramatic scenes in his documentary, probably had nothing to do with fracking. But decided not to tell his audience.”

Phelim points out Fox doesn’t acknowledge that methane, the gas which made the water catch on fire, can occur naturally. In fact, state officials had already reviewed that exact location and found precisely that. McAleer says he’s looking forward to tonight’s oil and gas discussion in Aspen, because he believes there’s enough people here who’ve had to work hard to make their fortune.

“They understand that very often prosperity, and all the wonderful things in Aspen, all the film festivals and the yoga festivals, they all need dirty hands somewhere behind them all to make the money to make this part of Colorado the wonderful place that it is.”

Frieda Wallison is Chair of the Pitkin County Republicans, which are hosting the event.

“We’re simply taking advantage of an opportunity that was presented to us by one of our members, indicating that the directors of ‘FrackNation’ were going to be in town.”

Wallison says the idea is to hear some more perspectives on a controversial topic.  Fracking she says, is part of the nationwide oil and gas boom.

“There are a lot of people who are happy about that, and a lot of people who are very concerned about fracking and whether there are health and safety implications from it. And how it should be regulated.”

Aspen Public Radio talked with producer Josh Fox last year about his “Gasland” films. We asked about an issue raised in “FrackNation,” about a drilling lease presented in “Gasland.” During our interview, Fox reacted strongly, asking to go off the record.  Only later did he acknowledge his film did not accurately portray that paperwork.  Nor, admitted Fox, did “Gasland” truthfully deal with his own family’s involvement with a local oil and gas leasing group.

For their part, McAleer and McElhinney, have been also been accused of questionable tactics while making their films. They have been called out by critics for harassing and stalking people for interviews.

Their next project is an anti-abortion film about a doctor serving life in prison. The physician was convicted for illegally performing late term abortions and for storing dead fetuses in his clinic.