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Stop the fracking: HBO doc 'Gasland' covers another environmental disaster

June 18, 2010 |  1:46 pm

While all eyes are on the worsening BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there's another U.S. environmental disaster that's about to get some TV time.

An HBO documentary, "Gasland," airing Monday, details a toxic practice called fracking that's happening across 34 states and, even though it's polluting air and water and causing debilitating illnesses in people and animals, it's virtually exempt from environmental laws.

Fracking, in short, is the hydraulic fracturing that happens when energy industry and drilling companies blast through underground rock looking for oil and natural gas. (There are already some 450,000 underground wells drilled across the country.) The hydrocarbons involved and the method itself are responsible for a range of pollution and health problems, the doc says.

Not surprisingly, there's a BP connection. The beleaguered oil conglomerate, since before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, has been working to ensure that gas companies don't have to disclose to environmental agencies what chemicals they use in fracking.

Read more about the film -- which won the special jury prize for documentaries at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival -- on the L.A. Times blog Greenspace.

Still on the topic of environmental armageddon, but on a slightly lighter note, Stephen Colbert gave a shortened (and dumbed-down) version of President Obama's speech about the Gulf disaster on "The Colbert Report" on Thursday night.

Language specialists had suggested on that the speech may have been too complicated for the average American to understand -- it was written at about a 10th-grade level.

Colbert broke it down to "Where the Wild Things Were" language and stuck to monosyllables. Can't wait for him to get ahold of fracking.

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-- T.L. Stanley