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Phelim McAleer, Controversial Filmmaker, Launches Grassroots Campaign For Pro-Fracking Film

Phelim Mcaleer And Ann Mcelhinney

First Posted: 02/ 7/2012 2:36 pm Updated: 02/ 9/2012 5:40 pm

WASHINGTON -- Phelim McAleer, the Irish filmmaker who attacked Al Gore over global warming issues, has turned his sights on fracking. Working with his wife, Ann McElhinney, McAleer has launched an effort to produce a new documentary, titled "FrackNation."

The couple will explore the implications of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process that involves the high-pressure injection of undisclosed chemicals into rocks containing oil or natural gas. They argue that media portrayals of the issue have been largely "exaggerated hyperbole" that ignore the millions of people whose lives have been "positively transformed" by the industry.

The film, expected to debut in a few months' time, will feature interviews with farmers and local landowners in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as residents in Warsaw, Poland, a nod to the international scope of the issue.

"There are a lot of allegations made by a lot of emotional people," McAleer told HuffPost in an interview on Tuesday. "But when you strip away the emotions and the hyperbole, the answer seems to be that we need to investigate further."

That the film is being funded by Kickstarter.com, known for hosting left-leaning projects from indie films to solar energy technology, is sure to raise some eyebrows. But McAleer welcomes the opportunity to defy political expectations, saying he felt it was important that the documentary be funded by grassroots supporters.

"This is a documentary funded by the people, for the people, and those people are going to be represented," he said. "Fracking seems to be a conversation between the urban upper and middle classes. The working class seems not to be invited to the conversation, so I thought I would invite them in and see what they have to say."

McAleer intends for his film also to investigate the backgrounds and motives of the environmentalists who contend the process contaminates groundwater and destroys ecosystems.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently conducted a study showing that fracking was responsible for polluted groundwater at an aquifer that supplied public drinking water to people in Pavillion, Wyoming. The agency has since been tasked with formulating rules on emissions from natural gas operations around the country, as part of a broader move by the Obama administration to address safety concerns around fracking.

In his recent interview with HuffPost, McAleer singled out one particular claim made in the Academy Award-nominated "Gasland" documentary as representative of critics' "scaremongering." In one segment, Fox shows that after controversial fracking procedures were enacted in Colorado, residents found their tap water was so polluted with methane, it could be set on fire.

McAleer noted that there have long been so-called "burning springs" documented in various parts of the country, where there was so much natural gas bubbling up through natural springs that the water would burn when lit.

Fox said such springs had no bearing on his documentary. "The citizens reported that they could not light their water on fire before the drilling," Fox said, "and after the drilling, they could light their water on fire."

McAleer has taped the exchange, which he claims Fox has continued to ignore. "I'm Irish, and it really got me going," McAleer explained.

"FrackNation" comes on the heels Fox's "Gasland" sequel, "Gasland II," which has received $750,000 in funding from HBO. The filmmakers are looking to raise $150,000 on Kickstarter and have garnered $10,000 so far.

"I have to say it made me laugh when Josh Fox cried censorship after his arrest recently," McAleer added in an email, referring to Fox's arrest at the request of House Republicans during a fracking hearing last week. "I was the victim of his censorship just a short time ago."

Fox was not immediately available for comment.

WATCH McAleer's exchange with Fox, reposted by McAleer on his website:

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