Environmentalists are giddy over the news that Matt Damon is starring in an anti-fracking film.
Damon's agency confirmed to Politico that the actor is slated to star in "The Promised Land," an "anti-fracking movie" that he co-wrote with actor John Krasinski ("The Office"), based on a draft by Dave Eggers ("Where The Wild Things Are").
According to Variety, Damon and Krasinski will star "as rival corporate executives, with the former thesp playing a character whose life is thrown into disarray after he arrives in a small town."
The film will also feature Frances McDormand "who prefers to follow the rules as opposed to breaking protocol," Rosemarie DeWitt as "a schoolteacher caught between Damon's and Krasinski's character" and possibly Hal Holbrook who "will play an engineer who lives in the town and opposes a corporate takeover being led by Damon." The movie will be directed by Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting").
A casting agency posted a call for extras on their Facebook page this past Monday, specifically searching for "great, character faces, farmer looks, senior citizens, and kids" in the Pittsburgh, Penn. area where the film is shooting "from late April through early June, 2012."
This isn't the first film to tackle the hydraulic fracturing debate. In 2010, the film "Gasland" documented the health concerns of citizens affected by the fracking industry, and featured a flammable water scene which caused quite the stir.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process for extracting natural gas from shale rock. The procedure has caused concern due in part to the chemicals injected into the wells for drilling, which may taint nearby drinking water. President Obama touted "safe" natural gas drilling in his State of the Union address, but also said, "I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."
The feasibility of protecting the health of Americans while conducting hydraulic fracturing operations is debatable. Dimock, Pennsylvania has been at the heart of this discussion. The small town's wells were tainted by fracking operations, and the drilling company and the EPA have (at times) delivered clean water to the residents.
According to ProPublica, recent EPA tests of Dimock's water reveal "dangerous quantities of methane gas" and "dozens of other contaminants, including low levels of chemicals known to cause cancer and heavy metals that exceed the agency's "trigger level" and could lead to illness if consumed over an extended period of time. The EPA's assurances suggest that the substances detected do not violate specific drinking water standards, but no such standards exist for some of the contaminants and some experts said the agency should have acknowledged that they were detected at all."
Not everyone is concerned about fracking, nor are all groups excited about the film, including the creators of pro-fracking film "FrackNation." The film's co-producer Phelim McAleer is known for attacking Al Gore about climate change and recently told HuffPost's Lucia Graves, "when you strip away the emotions and the hyperbole, the answer seems to be that we need to investigate further."
As Politico pointed out, FrackNation posted on their KickStarter site: "It will not be easy getting the message out with a sequel to Gasland in the works and now a big budget Hollywood movie concentrating on scare stories rather than true stories. Now, we recognize Hollywood movies don't have to be truthful - they just have to be entertaining, but it's likely that PROMISED LAND will increase unfounded concerns about fracking."
Many would argue that concerns about fracking are not "unfounded," including Damon himself -- In 2010, the actor posted a short video promoting the Working Family's Party "working to prevent risky natural gas drilling" and keep water clean in New York.