It's beginning to feel a lot like 2012—or some other federal election year—with fracking (that's short for hydraulic fracturing) on the line at the ballot box. Among the drilling method's supporters are Weld County's commissioners, who are launching a "myth-busting" tour this summer.
As the elected representatives of Colorado's most prolific natural-gas-drilling county, their primary target is a little Academy Award–nominated documentary called Gasland, which scans the country for examples of how fracking is contaminating drinking water (Greeley Tribune). Weld claims more than 17,000 active oil-and-gas wells, some of which are literally in residents' backyards, and criticisms like Gasland's have raised some concerns. For naught, says Commissioner Sean Conway: "I think there is an element out there that's anti-drilling, and it comes from the extremist environmental community.… What I've seen is long on theory and short on facts."
Until recently, fracking facts may have seemed in short supply. But ever since the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee found that three of the largest hydraulic fracturing companies had violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, data has been gushing—from the New York Times to Cornell University and a report released this week from Duke University. One investigative news outlet was far ahead of the pack, however. The nonprofit ProPublica has been researching the impacts of hydraulic fracturing for more than three years.
On the heels of this week's Duke report, the digital journalism students at New York University's Studio 20 debuted a music video based on ProPublica's fracking reportage. It's called "My Water's on Fire Tonight," and the Weld County commissioners may find themselves in need of a new campaign strategist if they're going to put this one out.