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A Cautionary Tale for the Buckeye State?

Fracking documentary Triple Divide kicks off nationwide tour with 10 screenings in Ohio.

Investigative filmmaker from Ohio exposes lax enforcement of oil and gas drilling laws in Pennsylvania; first screening Sept. 10 in Columbus.

Fouled well water. Roaring gas flares. Moon-scaped drilling sites. Abused property owners. Unresponsive state regulators.

These and other nightmarish sights and sounds documented in vivid detail from fracking sites in north central Pennsylvania beg timely questions: Will this be the bust left over after the shale gas boom ballyhooed for eastern Ohio? Or are Ohio regulators fully prepared to fend off the excess of this self-described “black gold” industry from defiling our “Beautiful Ohio?”

These unspoken questions may soon be asked out loud, once Ohioans get an eye-full of the searing new investigative documentary film, Triple Divide as it works its way through 10 different Ohio cities as part of a nationwide tour, starting Sept. 10 in Columbus.

Filmed and co-directed by a pair of journalists, Sandusky native Josh Pribanic and co-director Melissa Troutman, the film investigates negative impacts from shale gas industrial development and how those impacts are handled by state regulators and industry officials in Pennsylvania.

But unlike other documentaries, Triple Divide speaks to all sides of the fracking controversy, with exclusive interviews with industry officials, state regulators, independent experts, and everyday Americans suffering in the wake of shale gas development.

The evidence in Triple Divide is built on cradle-to-grave investigations throughout the film’s 10 chapters, which cover waste, injection wells, drinking water contamination, split-estates, the “pre-drill test scandal,” and the “pressure bulb” among others. The 90-minute documentary is a project by PublicHerald.org, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Pribanic and Troutman.

“The natural gas industry is spending a lot of time and money to reassure the public that fracking is being done safely,” said Pribanic. “Triple Divide offers everyone a chance to see firsthand if best management practices by the industry and state-enforced regulations are capable of protecting the interest of communities or leaseholders. Audiences should expect to see things they’ve never witnessed or heard before. We offer raw data from files and evidence in the field, something that’s neither republican nor democrat.”

Hard-hitting, Triple Divide is also fair.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is highlighted in the film for weakly enforced regulations, but “the head of ‘Oil & Gas’ at DEP, Scott Perry, told me he’s seen the film and it’s very well done,” said Troutman. “This attests to Public Herald’s journalistic integrity and ability to reach both ends of the public spectrum: community members and heads of state.”

Triple Divide is presented by Public Herald, a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigative journalism in the public interest. Its directors hope it will be a springboard for discussion about the real impacts from fracking, and a forewarning for states like Ohio.  

The Ohio Environmental Council is helping to kick off a nationwide tour of the film, starting with a screening and talk by its co-directors at 7 p.m., on Sept. 10 at the Gateway Film Center near the Ohio State University campus in Columbus.

The OEC is working with Sierra Club-Ohio, Buckeye Forest Council, People’s Oil and Gas Collaborative, and local partners to show the film across the state.

“The problems experienced by Pennsylvanians following shale gas drilling may be headed to Ohio. Triple Divide offers an urgent caution sign that Ohio cannot afford to ignore,” stated Melanie Houston, OEC Director of Water Policy and Environmental Health.

“Through thorough investigative journalism, Triple Divide presents a compelling case that the gas land communities of Ohio may be in for more than clogged roads and a temporary surge in retail dollars from itinerant oil and gas workers. They may be in for a real rude awakening.”

Film screenings and Q+A with the filmmakers are set for:

  • Sept. 10, 7 p.m., Columbus – Gateway Film Center
  • Sept. 12, 6 p.m., Mansfield – Relax, It’s Just Coffee
  • Sept. 19, 7 p.m., Granville – Denison University
  • Sept. 20, 7 p.m., Springfield – Senior & Community Center
  • Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Rocky River – West Shore UU Church
  • Sept. 22, 6 p.m., Youngstown – B&O Banquet Hall
  • Sept. 23, 6 p.m., Salem – The Memorial Building
  • Sept. 24, 7 p.m., Bowling Green – Grounds for Thought
  • Sept. 25, 5:50 p.m., Toledo – Maumee Branch Library
  • Sept. 27, 7 p.m., Sandusky – Harlequins Community Theatre

Learn more about the film and its Ohio tour at www.tripledividefilm.org. Watch the Triple Divide trailer at www.publicherald.org.

Learn more about deep-shale industrial development in Ohio and the work of the Ohio Environmental Council at www.theOEC.org/fracking.