Truthyland aka “Truthland” was screened publicly in Syracuse to an audience of eleven (11), then in Buffalo to an evidently skeptical audience of thirty (30), who laughed their way through most of the film. Here are some highlights from the Q&A session that was punctuated by the audience heckling the panel of fracking shills, the panel of shills heckling the audience, the Energy in Depth spokesman heckling a questioner, and the host calling armed, bullet-proof-vested security guards to maintain truthiness.
Truthyland frack flaks were Dennis “The Fracking Menace” Holbrook, “Stunt Man” Holko and Scott “Easy on the Eyeliner ?” Cline, a local DIMBY = drill in my back yard. Truthyland narrator Mrs. DePue fled the scene before the Q&A started and the armed guards arrived. But she deserves an Oscar for her performance in the infomercial: she plays dumb about how gas wells leak, when she knows more about leaking gas wells – her own annulus was bubbling – than anyone in the movie.
First comment is from Buck Quigley, addressing Dennis Holbrook of Norse Energy, a gas prospector in New York, regarding Norse’s role in using their employee, Prof. Robert Jacobi, a geologist at the University of Buffalo to set up a “shale institute” at UB – to get more truthy than Norse – or Holbrook – were capable of themselves. Buck is reading from Holbrook’s speech to the industry about how to set up such industry-friendly partnerships with universities, effectively contaminating the academic’s credibility. Holbrook offered no explanation. Even truthy frackers are sometimes at a loss for truthiness. Until their fracking shale shill sons come to their aide online. Anonymously. Until Buck outed him too.
Second comment is from Prof. Holstun of UB, who asks Holbrook how Norse got UB to form its Shale $hamstitute. Holbrook dodges the question, by rambling on truthily about the gas industry’s “PR efforts” to buy credibility by using frackademics to write reports favorable to frackers. Imagine that. When re-asked about offering money to UB to form the shale institute, Holbrook dissembles, implying that the UB geology department contacted Norse to from a shale institute, separately from Jacobi – when UB geologist Robert Jacobi was already on the Norse payroll. Just a coinky-dink according to Dennis the Fracking Menace.
Third question was how the panelist could justify supporting a fracking mockumentary that was made by an industry PR group, Energy in Depth, as being anything other than gas industry propaganda. None of the panelist – who were there to promote the truthiness of Truthyland – could answer that.
Fourth question was about the hazards of horizontal gas wells. Panelist Scott Cline’s response was the standard “bait & switch” truthy gambit – “that the industry has been doing all this for decades and that horizontal shale wells are better than conventional vertical wells, blah, blah.” This sort of truthiness is designed to lull people into the notion that a horizontal shale well, which takes thousands of truck loads to drill and frack, is the same as a small vertical well, which takes dozens of truckloads to drill and frack. Or that a horizontal shale well – as Cline implies truthily – is more environmentally benign, uses less pressure, etc. All of this is truthless. A horizontal shale gas well is 4 times more prone to leak than a vertical well. He states that a mile long horizontal shale lateral “replaces” 32 vertical shale gas wells. That’s a flagrantly truthy comparison – because there is no such thing as a vertical shale gas well. Shale is drilled and fracked horizontally, because that’s the only way for it to be marginally economic. As another audience member pointed out, when the wells are not economic – their risk/ reward ratio goes negative: there is no economic benefit from drilling uneconomic shale wells – only environmental costs to roads, water supplies and land uses. While the Ponzi gas goes to China . . .
Fifth question is about methane contamination from gas wells, which was, of course the problem with the Truthyland narrator’s wells. Scott Cline says that there is less methane near gas wells, citing one test in Otsego County, which was an anomaly in the Duke methane study – a test well which was also cited in the dSGEIS. This is classic The Sky is Pink, truthy-speak – implying that gas wells improve water quality. He also says that local water wells are drilled into shale – releasing methane, which is not the case – New York’s shallow water wells do not tap gas bearing formations. But his answer is an admission that drilling through shale releases gas into water. Which is exactly what horizontal shale gas wells are good at. Leaking. Even on the Truthless narrator’s property.
Sixth question addresses inspection, the panelists had made a big truthy deal about how many regulatory agencies have oversight – naming several that have no direct oversight in New York over drilling – so the questioner asks who is really going to inspect fracking in New York. The first answer, from Lenape Energy’s “Stunt Man” Holko about the historical lack of major incidents in New York, does not answer the question, and is not entirely correct, New York has a history of gas well problems, thousands of orphaned, leaking gas wells, the worst fracking regulations in America, one of the worst regulatory agencies of any state that is chronically understaffed and underfunded, with less frequent inspections than other states. Holbrook repeats another big lie: that the 15 DEC well inspectors will not be swamped by shale gas industrialization, and another whopper, that “New York state has a production tax to pay for the cost of such state inspections”, when New York is the only state with no state tax on gas production. So, unlike other states, the state has no money from the industry to inspect wells, no money to repair state roads – all of those costs are off-loaded by industry onto the taxpayers of New York. The industry will declare minimal income tax in New York state, because none of the major frackers are domiciled in New York, and all of them have extra-truthy tax accountants capable of avoiding paying New York state income tax. The regs. themselves of course were written by the gas industry, and New York is one of the only states without an autonomous independent environmental agency to oversee shale gas industrialization. What could possibly go wrong ?
Seventh question about the problems with the film narrator’s wells. (The Truthyland narrator had bolted before questions started). Which gave the Truthless panel an opportunity to be truthy about the problems with the narrator’s wells. ‘Stunt Man” Holko in particular acts convincingly clueless about the documented violations with the wells and the lawsuit over water contamination on the neighbor’s property. Throughout the documentary, the narrator likewise played dumb about the problems with her own gas wells, when she knows more about how gas wells leak than most of the “experts” she interviews. Scott Cline jumps the shark to state that Ms. DePue is “not aware of any problems whatsoever with her gas wells” – when she was a poster girl for gas well problems before she made the infomercial. But the shale $hills on the Truthyland panel played dumb about that. Not much of a stretch for any of them.