Beyond the Frack Divide

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An audience at the Victoria Theatre in Blossburg, PA, discuss findings in the documentary Triple Divide w/ filmmakers Melissa Troutman & Joshua Pribanic (not shown). photo: J.B.Pribanic

An audience discusses findings from the documentary Triple Divide in Blossburg, PA, at the end of an hour long Q&A w/ filmmakers Melissa Troutman & Joshua Pribanic (not shown). photo: J.B.Pribanic

A Review of Triple Divide

Op-ed by John Kesich (Millerton, PA) 

If you’re not angry about what the gas industry and its profiteering shills are doing to areas with shale gas, you probably haven’t seen Triple Divide; an excellent investigative report on the unsavory underbelly of this beast in PA. Of the fifty some area residents who gave up their Saturday afternoon to attend the showing I’d arranged in Blossburg, one left about two thirds through the film. He was clearly very upset and disgusted as he approached the filmmakers and me near the concession stand where we stood watching. He said something about the futility of opposing the industry which would get away with whatever it wanted. As an afterthought he turned and ironically added, “You’re doing a good job.”

After four years of researching and speaking out against this perfidy – one of numerous frauds being perpetrated by rich and powerful sociopaths not just in the US but all around the world – I know just how he felt; the opposition is truly daunting. Nevertheless,  the courage, humor and decency of fracking’s victims, some of whom are portrayed in the film, give me hope. These two quotes also stiffen my resolve to push for justice. “The triumph of evil requires only that good men do nothing.” And, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

No one else left early, and nearly all stayed for the lively Q&A with Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, the filmmakers. The audience shared two interesting facts. Retailers of organic milk are now labeling it as coming from New York State when they can. And, at a recent outdoorsmen’s show in Harrisburg, exhibitors were, understandably, writing off Tioga County as a vacation destination thanks to fracking.

Several people commented on the film’s excellence, both the meticulous research and the cinematography. I agree, it is first rate. And far better than one might expect from two young investigative reporters from Coudersport who founded a nonprofit – the Public Herald – and spent about a year and a half creating the film. That may explain why the media failed to heed my suggestion to attend. But that doesn’t answer the big question which was asked, “Why isn’t the media showing interest in the stories covered in the film?” Such as the case where Chesapeake challenged the validity of predrill water tests which showed no contamination after postdrill tests revealed contamination – and DEP accepted their flimsy explanation. (Pribanic and Troutman have uncovered several similar cases after completing the film.)

Other people who were conspicuous by their absence were State Representative Matt Baker and the Tioga County Commissioners, none of whom saw fit to do me the common courtesy of acknowledging the personal invitation I emailed each of them.  The final person I didn’t see was the guy who asked me, “If fracking is so bad, where are all the dead bodies?” at one of my recent antifrack protests in Wellsboro. Does he really not understand that chronic low level exposure to toxins is harmful? In any event, he’d probably find some way to discount all the evidence presented in Triple Divide. At the end of the day, at least for some, what Paul Simon observed is all too true, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

I hope to arrange some further showings of Triple Divide in the area, and get people to pressure our politicians to watch the film and go on record concerning the issues it raises. I intend to work with groups across the state to arrange one or more showings in Harrisburg for the legislature. Other actions that people could get involved with are petition drives; one for a moratorium on new leases in PA and another to end all federal subsidies, tax breaks and exemptions for oil and gas. What the gas industry is doing to PA is unconscionable. If it is legal, there is something very wrong with the law.