Oscar Buzz: Former DEP Sec. Hanger Rooting Against ‘Gasland’

By Keegan Gibson, Contributing Writer

For those of you who hoped someday to see Oscar news on PoliticsPA, your day has come.

John Hanger, the immediate former Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said via a blog post that he is rooting against ‘Gasland,’ a documentary about the impact of Marcellus shale drilling in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the country. AN interview with Hanger features prominently in the film.

“Despite Josh Fox having real roots in Pennsylvania, and though normally I root for all things Pennsylvanian, I am not pulling for Gasland to win an Oscar for Best Documentary,” Hanger says of the filmmaker.

Hanger proceeds to cite a laundry list of alleged inaccuracies of the film, focusing especially on its implication that the DEP was negligent. But Hanger also has a personal stake in ‘Gasland.’

The film portrays Hanger, a former environmental activist, as a weak-willed and ineffectual tool of the natural gas industry (Hanger had previously served as president and CEO of PennFuture, one of PA’s most active environmental groups).

Hanger says the interview was, “heavily edited to include in the film.”

“The film presents a selective, distorted view of gas drilling and the energy choices America faces today,” wrote Hanger.  “If Gasland were about the airline industry, every flight would crash and all airlines would be irresponsible.”

Hanger and Fox have long exchanged accusations over the content of their interview. From a June 2010 story in the Inquirer:

“Hanger dismissed Gasland, which won a Sundance Film Festival award, as ‘fundamentally dishonest’ and ‘a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.’

“Fox, contacted in New York on Wednesday during a promotional tour, shot back: ‘It’s John Hanger himself who’s dishonest.’ He said the secretary was disingenuous to present natural gas development ‘as anything other than a disaster.’”

Hanger seems to have softened his stance on the film generally and on Fox specifically. Having previously referred to Fox as a “propagandist,” in today’s post Hanger sounds a more conciliatory note.

“In the last year, I have interacted with Josh Fox.  While some of his critics would not agree, I believe he has good intentions.

“Mr. Fox is giving voice to real concerns and speaking for some people that really have been negatively impacted by drilling who should not be ignored. He would be a more convincing and responsible voice if he were more careful.  Indeed we all should strive to be more careful.”

February 27th, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg | 7 Comments

7 thoughts on “Oscar Buzz: Former DEP Sec. Hanger Rooting Against ‘Gasland’”

  1. Susan says:

    @Douglas: Are you a robot apologist for the fossil fuel industry? You sound like one. I suggest you read The New York Times’ expose’ on fracking. You will learn how the drilling regulations are weak, un-enforced and ignored. The continued use of fossil fuels, the resultant pollution and emissions of GHGs is killing the planet that we depend on for our very lives. To ignore these issues is insane, but typifies the thinking of people like you here in the States. Anything that upsets your world view is treated as a threat rather than what it is: change. Simply change. Our educational system is designed to create worker bees and not critical thinkers. Your letter is a result of that system. I suggest you work to make the world a better place, one that will thrive in a low-carbon future, rather than spend your time spouting blather delivered to you via the Koch brothers, et al.

  2. Douglas says:

    It’s unfortunate that so many so called environmentalists wish to destroy our country’s (and this state’s) ability to produce our own energy. Any attempt to drill for oil, natural gas or mine coal is met with blind resistance. Our country does more to midigate environmental damage and has more regulations than any major country in the world yet all we hear the sky is falling. It’s no wonder; Big and Little Green runs on tax dollars, grants and gifts. Having no experience with any profit making venture that creates jobs and properity they simply have no understanding of such entities. These “evil profiteers” built this country and make your miserable existance possible. I trust industry more than the big green lying machine which has been brainwashing kids since 1970. I know because I was one of them. It is big green that has made us more dependant on foreign oil. Big Green that kept us from building the nuclear reactors we needed to create electricity for a growing country. The oil spill in the gulf lays at the feet of the movement who through reulation forced drilling too far out in water that was too deep. Now that you’ve blunted our energy industry you say “only the government can make the clean energy we need”. We’ll just tax energy producers to create it. Pathetic. Hurray for Secretary Hanger standing up to the green tools here and elsewhere.

  3. The Sierra Club’s lobbyist in PA spells it out the case against Hanger’s record on gas drilling in a comment over at ProPublica. This link will take you straight to it:
    http://bit.ly/dFcqB5

  4. Dave says:

    The writer of this piece wrote “The film portrays Hanger, a former environmental activist, as a weak-willed and ineffectual tool of the natural gas industry.”

    I agree with the writer. Hangar is definitely a weak-willed and ineffectual tool.

  5. Wayne says:

    Here in Western Pa., we’re well on our way to becoming an energy production wasteland similar to the Gulf Coast and South Central US. Today it’s drilling and extraction, tomorrow it will be refining and processing. The frac’ing water is being dumped in our rivers, resulting in tap water that’s so chlorinated and full of metals that residents here are being advised to install whole-house water filters. And I’ve heard from eyewitnesses that the drillers change their operations when they see DEP trucks on their way to inspect the sites, to reduce negative effects and ensure they’re in compliance with the weak regs.

  6. i truly belive pa. is going to be a toxic waste once the gas companies get through with it. future generations will pay a hell of a price for what is being inflicted on state. they have no reguard for wetlaands, wildlife, streams,or anything pretaning to the enviroment. I just want to throw up when i see gas companies advertiseing how clean gas is. You need to tell the whole story about how unclean it is to retrieve it. No way will you ever set foot on our farm in southern columbia county pa. I will fight you to the last breath.and theirs also.

  7. BradyDale says:

    Josh Fox has accomplished ten times more to fight gas drillers than Hanger ever did. Hanger’s go along and get along approach was all wrong in the critical early days of the industry and he never had the self-confidence to admit that no matter how good an administrator he might be, his agency just never had the resources to the work.

    It’s very sad that he can’t let it go and acknowledge that this film has been the single most galvanizing force against a giant and destructive industry. So he came off looking bad. So what? Let it go and move on. GASLANDS has been tremendous for the good guys.

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