Arrested Anti-Fracking Filmmaker Fights Back

It is a rare sight to see an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker arrested while recording a public congressional hearing. But that is exactly what happened in February as “Gasland” director Josh Fox was handcuffed before a hydraulic fracturing hearing at the request of the Republican leadership of the House subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology. 

Fox is making a follow-up to his critically acclaimed movie about the risks to public health and contamination of the water supply from chemicals used by the natural gas industry when they drill and then administer high-pressure injections into shale rock to fracture the shale and extract natural gas. His sequel explores the corrupt connection between the oil and gas industry and the United States government. 

Anyone concerned about the First Amendment, Freedom of the Press and civil liberties should be outraged that the Republicans would first deny Fox a media credential, as was reported on many news sites, and then ask for him to be arrested for filming without a credential. This despite the fact that it was a public hearing where people take pictures and shoot amateur video of proceedings all the time. I have attended many of these public hearings and sat there with my video camera shooting and never have been asked to be removed. 

And anyone concerned about the stranglehold the oil and gas industry have on Republicans in Congress and our government should be appalled at the arrest of Fox. There are serious questions that need to be asked about chemicals seeping into groundwater from the fracking method. This is about the public health of the citizens of the United States, not just about jobs and the economy in this rush to tap into every inch of shale rock for every drop of natural gas in this country. 

And remember that these are the same anti-science Republicans who have done nothing to implement a renewable energy policy in America. Millions of jobs are being lost overseas because the United States does not incentivize clean energy nearly enough compared to subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. Republicans are in no position to talk about jobs when they refuse to allow America to compete in the global clean energy race with biofuel, biomass, wind power, solar power, tidal power, wave power, hydroelectricity and geothermal energy. 

Here is Fox’s statement to the press followed by video of him talking about his arrest on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” with Ed Schultz. 


I was arrested today for exercising my First Amendment rights to freedom of the press on Capitol Hill. I was not expecting to be arrested for practicing journalism.


Today’s hearing in the House Energy and Environment subcommittee was called to examine EPAs findings that hydraulic fracturing fluids had contaminated groundwater in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming. I have a long history with the town of Pavillion and its residents who have maintained since 2008 that fracking has contaminated their water supply. I featured the stories of residents John Fenton, Louis Meeks and Jeff Locker in GASLAND and I have continued to document the catastrophic water contamination in Pavillion for the upcoming sequel GASLAND 2.


It would seem that the Republican leadership was using this hearing to attack the three year Region 8 EPA investigation involving hundreds of samples and extensive water testing which ruled that Pavillion’s groundwater was a health hazard, contaminated by benzene at 50x the safe level and numerous other contaminants associated with gas drilling. Most importantly, EPA stated in this case that fracking was the likely cause. 


As a filmmaker and journalist I have covered hundreds of public hearings, including Congressional hearings. It is my understanding that public speech is allowed to be filmed. Congress should be no exception. No one on Capitol Hill should regard themselves exempt from the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution states explicitly “Congress shall make no law…that infringes on the Freedom of the Press”. Which means that no subcommittee rule or regulation should prohibit a respectful journalist or citizen from recording a public hearing. 

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Josh Marks is a clean energy blogger and environmental journalist who was inspired to start blogging about climate disruption two years ago after ditching his car and choosing to live a low carbon life by walking, biking and taking public transportation in Los Angeles. Josh founded a blog called Green SoCal while living in L.A., and then Green D.C. when he moved to Washington, D.C. Both blogs focused on regional energy and environmental issues. Most recently, Josh retired his two blogs and started a new blog called Green Center, and then renamed it Green Forward. The blog examines solutions to global climate disruption, environmental conservation, renewable energy security and the transition to a sustainable economy.Visit Green Forward at http://www.greenforwardblog.com

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