Phelim McAleer, Pro-Fracking Filmmaker, Erects Billboard In Fracking Country

WASHINGTON -- Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer, who famously attacked Al Gore over global warming issues, stepped up his support for fracking on Thursday, erecting a billboard on Route 17 in Rock Hill, N.Y., on the road to Pennsylvania.

The billboard serves as a teaser for McAleer's upcoming documentary, "FrackNation." Produced with his wife, Ann McElhinney, the film explores the implications of fracking -- or hydraulic fracturing -- a controversial process in which undisclosed chemicals are injected at high pressure into rocks containing oil or natural gas.

McAleer has argued that media portrayals of fracking have been largely "exaggerated hyperbole" that ignores the millions of people whose lives have been "positively transformed" by the fracking industry.

"There's lots of anecdotes and there's lot of stories and there's lots of scare stories," McAleer told HuffPost.

On his billboard and in his upcoming film, McAleer has targeted a particular claim made by filmmaker Josh Fox in the Academy Award-nominated "Gasland" documentary. In his film, Fox showed that after fracking was done in Colorado, residents' tap water was so polluted with methane that it could be set on fire.

After a screening of "Gasland," McAleer approached Fox to challenge his views. McAleer said that "burning springs" -- in which so much natural gas was bubbling up through natural springs that the water would burn when lit -- have long been documented in New York, West Virginia and Kentucky.

"The water was on fire in 1669," his billboard says, referring people to McAleer's website for more information.

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

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

McAleer taped the conversation with Fox, which he says Fox has continued to ignore. Such "censorship," McAleer adds, is what first inspired him to make a film.

"I just feel, as a journalist, it was an ethical requirement for him to show the science behind these allegations and the historical context on which to hang these allegations," McAleer said of Fox. "He fails to do that."