The Story

Flammable faucets. Top-secret chemicals. Sick livestock. Ominous voice-overs. Grainy video. And that banjo … that incessant banjo.

Shelly had seen and heard enough.

Is hydraulic fracturing — one of many key processes used to produce America’s enormous reserves of natural gas — as unsafe and environmentally ruinous as some have said? The way Gasland director Josh Fox tried so hard to portray it on HBO?

Shelly certainly had a stake in the answer. A teacher by trade from rural northeast Pennsylvania, Shelly lives with her husband, four children and granddaughter on a farm that’s been part of her husband’s family since 1890. Of course, that farm also happens to sit atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. If accessing those resources wasn’t safe, she thought, then neither was her family. She owed it to them — and to herself — to find out the truth. After all, wells were being considered for her property.

So, like the good teacher she is, Shelly began by making a list, running through some of the scarier claims made in the film and pulling together a couple of questions specific to each. Questions like:

  • What’s the deal with this dramatic “fire on water” scene in “Gasland”? If a gas well is drilled near your property, is that what happens to your faucet?
  • How about the film’s claim that chemicals are getting into our water supply — and secret ones to boot? That doesn’t sound right.
  • What about this town called Dimock, Pennsylvania? Gasland depicts it as an absolute wasteland, something straight out of the “Lord of the Rings.” What’s the real story out there? And what do the people who actually live there have to say about this whole thing?

Armed with serious questions and determined to find serious and credible answers, Shelly packs up her suitcase and hits the road for a trip across the country, making stops along the way to interview academics, environmentalists, regulators and industry experts — people who know a thing or two about the science, technology and history of producing oil and gas in America. And would you believe it? None of the experts who agreed to sit down with Shelly asked her for a dime. Which was only fair, really, since Shelly herself wasn’t paid for her time or participation either.

Of course, if you ask Shelly, she’ll tell you that she didn’t exactly return from the trip empty-handed. She came back with a lot of facts, a lot of answers, and the peace of mind you get from having both those things close by. Not for nothin’, but she also returned with a pretty snazzy video highlighting all the amazing people and places she visited during her trip. We call it “Truthland.” Hopefully, upon watching it, you’ll understand why.