Promised Land starring Matt Damon highlights dangers of fracking

Matt Damon plays a natural gas industry salesman in Promised Land.

What does gas drilling in western Pennsylvania have to do with dead cows? To find out, watch Promised Land, the upcoming Matt Damon movie that explores what can happen to rural communities when fracking comes to town.

Fracking, a method of natural gas extraction, has gained nationwide attention as communities near well sites reveal that their groundwater has been contaminated with toxic drilling chemicals used in fracking, or hydraulic fracturing as it's otherwise known.

Why this movie matters:

Promised Land is must-see for anyone interested in learning why this natural gas drilling method has become so controversial -- and why communities, conservationists and environmentalists are pushing for reforms to fracking laws.

Matt Damon plays a corporate gas salesman trying to expand his company's drilling holdings in rural Pennsylvania. He meets his match when a grassroots organizer (John Krasinski) joins forces with a respected school teacher (Hal Holbrook) to show community members that selling drilling rights to their land could result in more than they bargain for.

Movie dates:

Promised Land opens in December in select theaters. 

Promised Land movie site:

More about fracking

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique used by the oil and gas industry to get natural gas and oil to flow through the rocks in which it is trapped. The fracking process includes pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals (including carcinogens) into shale thousands of feet under the surface. 

Why fracking is controversial

Fracking has gained national attention as communities near gas wells report incidents of severe groundwater pollution not present before gas companies began fracking their area. Fracking operations are spreading throughout the United States, yet:

  • Fracking safety regulations are limited.
  • Incidents of ground water contamination in high-fracking areas have been reported all over the country, from  Colorado to Pennsylvania.
  • Public disclosure laws of chemicals involved in fracking differ by state, yet most states do not require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals pumped into the ground during fracking.

Why changes are needed

Communities and residents near drill sites deserve to know what chemicals are being injected underground. 

Fracking takes advantage of loopholes in federal laws which were designed to protect drinking water, so the chemicals used in drilling are not required to be publicly disclosed. So, as the film portrays, local communities and conservationists are increasingly concerned about its effects on drinking water and human health, as well as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, wildlife and even earthquakes

Communities and residents near drill sites deserve to know what chemicals are being injected underground in order to help identify the source of contamination in the case of accidental releases, spills, or water contamination.  

Fracking on federal wildlands

In addition to the private lands and farms addressed in the film, fracking is also happening on public lands owned by all Americans, especially ones managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Rocky Mountain West. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico contain some of the most spectacular American landscapes but are also coveted for their natural gas resources. 

The Wilderness Society has always advocated for stronger disclosure laws. In Spring, 2012, the BLM announced draft rules for a new policy for chemical disclosure on federal leases. We strongly support setting stronger standards. Unfortunately the proposed rules don’t require drillers to publicly disclose information about the fracking chemicals and their volumes until after the drilling has been completed.  

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