The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce sent out a letter to local chambers in the Fayetteville Shale region asking for their support in criticizing the documentary “Gasland”, which will show in Arkansas this week. There is also, as you might imagine, a heavy dose of cheerleading for the natural gas industry. The letter is addressed “Dear Editor” and, according to chamber president and CEO Randy Zook, was to be submitted to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for publication. Zook said the letter was a work in progress, but that it was his intention that it be published as is. (He was surprised and inquired how the Times had obtained a copy. We’re not saying.)

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“Gasland,” a film that calls into question the practice of hydraulic fracturing – a process whereby millions of gallons of water and a host of unknown chemicals are shot into the ground to crack shale formations and release natural gas – will be showing in Clinton, Fayetteville and Little Rock on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively. The letter is a typical industry response to criticism, calling into question the integrity of the filmmaker, Josh Fox, while ignoring any cost associated with gas drilling that isn’t strictly economic (road damage in Arkansas is already far in excess of the amount produced by a small increase in the gas severance tax). The Times has documented problems that can arise from gas exploration (Check here, here and here). The letter essentially says, let’s continue blindly into this foray for short-term economic gain while ignoring the health and well-being of our citizens and long-term economic and environmental impacts.

As representatives of thousands of businesses across our state, we find it ironic that during these challenging times, Arkansas has received a visit from a New York City filmmaker who is airing a “shockumentary” and has publicly stated that he wishes to shut down the natural gas industry in shale production regions across our country. While questioning his scientific and journalistic integrity might be in order, what is not in question is the great benefit to our state that the exploration of the Fayetteville Shale has been in sustaining our economy during this difficult time.

Two of those businesses the chamber represents are Chesapeake Energy and XTO, both considered “summit members” for their contributions of $25,000 in support of the chamber. Southwestern Energy is listed as a $10,000 contributor on the Chamber website. Read my story about the film and how early interviews in Arkansas set the tone for the documentary. For more information and viewing times, check out GreenAR by the Day. This isn’t the first time Fox has suffered criticism. Upon the film’s release he prepared this document to refute claims made by industry shills. The full letter is on the jump, plus a response from “Gasland” director Josh Fox.

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