A crowd filled the Indiana Theater on March 29th, 2013 to watch the premier of Triple Divide, a poignant, visually striking, and informative documentary about hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. Told through the personal stories of resident Pennsylvanians, the film exposes truths about the Pennsylvania DEP, the consequences of fracking, the important policies and laws that underpin fracking procedures and undermine residents’ rights, and how the careless actions of fracking companies and the state government pose hazards to people, livestock, water sources, and more.
Concerned by the implications of the film, the audience joined in a group discussion following the screening to ask questions of six panelists. Joining us for the evening were Triple Divide directors Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, both investigative journalists for the PA-based Public Herald; Sherene Hess, a representative of the League of Women Voters; Gerald Smith, founder and member of the Coalition for a Healthy County; Cindy Rogers of the Evergreen Conservancy; and Gabby Lehigh, an undergraduate student of IUP working towards her BA in Anthropology, who conducted ethnographic research in Diamondville, PA to study the experiences of residents with fracking.
In addition to sharing questions, opinions, and thoughts about the film, many people chose to share their personal concerns and stories about how hydraulic fracturing impacted their lives. Panelists responded to each question in turn, and offered their own perspectives, as well as resources and information for audience members to access.
“I am very worried about what will happen in ten to fifteen years when Pennsylvania is a wasteland. That’s just terrible,” said Gerald Smith. “At the same time…the [gas] industry is here, and they are creating jobs, so I’m conflicted, personally.”
Melissa Troutman suggested that Indiana establish a community rights bill that establishes local rights and allows residents to make decisions on their own. Over 100 communities in PA have passed community rights bills. At the end of the evening we asked people to sign a petition from the Coalition for a Healthy County to prohibit all natural gas fracturing. The petition is available here.
We were struck by how many more stories were left to be told by the very residents present in the room, and we were honored to be in the presence of our guest speakers for our panel.