Fractured Earth is a short but impassioned documentary about the impact of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in rural Pennsylvania. Photojournalist Les Stone sets out to consult with a handful of locals in the towns of Dimock and Towanda, PA, where the fracking industry has wreaked havoc. Through first-hand accounts we learn about the struggles working-class Pennsylvanians have endured at the hands of the natural gas industry since 2008.
Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling into the Earth and penetrating the shale layer by inserting a high-pressure combination of water, sand and chemicals into the ground in order to crack it apart and release natural gas. Accessing these natural gasses is meant to lessen our reliance on foreign oil by providing an affordable domestic resource, but the ultimate cost to locals is revealed to be devastating. Throughout the film average citizens share their tales of polluted water sources and corporate intimidation.
Ray Kemble, a former truck driver for the gas industry, has Stone bear witness to the emptying of his water well. After a few minutes of flushing, the water starts to darken and Stone confirms a significant foul smell emanates from it. It is inarguably undrinkable. Raymond Mayerzack, a local fisherman, points to a massive fish die-out that he believes was caused when a truck carrying fracking-related liquids overturned into an area lake. Several families tell of their dependence on bottled water after their wells were contaminated by methane and shale gas, rendering it undrinkable despite the DEP's insistence to the contrary. And while each of these interview subjects can point to documentation about their pollution and contamination claims, the Department of Environmental Protection and gas industry representatives continue to deny liability.
Doug McLinko, Bradford County Commissioner (Towanda, PA) defends the benefits of natural gas, citing an increase in the local economy from industry-related jobs, yet farmers who initially chose to cooperate with the fracking companies have not seen the financial rewards they were promised. Fractured Earth leaves very little room for a pro-fracking argument, making an incriminating case against the natural gas industry and its proponents.