With Congress’s August recess (ehem, “district work period”) only a week or so away, the last few remaining days of session are always incredibly busy around the Capitol – and this week was certainly no exception. Thankfully, though, thanks to the help and support of U.S. Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.) – co-chairs of the Natural Gas Caucus— EID was able to secure a spot on an otherwise packed congressional agenda to screen “Truthland” at the Capitol Visitors Center on Wednesday.
Shelly herself came down for the day, and so did several well-known experts whom she interviewed in the film. And wouldn’t you know it? The event itself almost didn’t happen: initially because of some early resistance from the staff of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the anti-FRAC Act; and on the day of, the CVC apparently scheduled us in a room that doesn’t even exist. However, thanks to one of Rep. Murphy’s top staffers, this setback was surmounted as well and the co-chairs and EID worked frantically to inform the media and congressional staff of the correct location.
As for the event itself: couldn’t have gone better. More than 40 Capitol Hill staffers joined Shelly and crew for the screening, filling the room we were (eventually) assigned to capacity. Among the attendees were legislative staff from member offices representing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, New York, Colorado and Oklahoma — as well as committee staff from the Senate EPW committee, among many others.
Introductions from Reps. Boren and Murphy kicked off the screening. In their remarks, the Caucus co-chairs highlighted the importance of natural gas to the U.S. economy and the need to have an honest and fact-based discussion about where our country’s energy actually comes from – and what it could make possible for everyday Americans moving forward. Rep. Boren said that most his colleagues in Congress don’t know an awful lot about natural gas — and that most of what they do know, unfortunately, appears to have been shaped by a certain documentary that ran on HBO. Congressman Murphy hit similar themes in his remarks.
Once the film wrapped up, the expert panel made its way to the stage. These experts included Dr. Terry Engelder, Penn State professor of geosciences; Gary Hanson, Director of the Red River Watershed Institute; and Scott Roberts, former Pennsylvania DEP official — all appeared in “Truthland” (find their bios here). Shelly was also on hand to introduce the film and provide attendees with perspectives she gained during her voyage.
The Capitol Hill staff who attended the screening took advantage of having the combined expertise of these scientists, regulators and engineers in the same room – and asked plenty of questions. And good questions too, like: how is natural gas development regulated? (as a joint partnership between states and EPA.) What’s the difference between hydraulic fracturing of 20 years ago and hydraulic fracturing of today? (no real mechanical differences at all.) Are there any other applications for hydraulic fracturing? (yes, lots: including geothermal development). Plus a whole lot more.
When all was said and done, despite initial delays and a few logistical challenges, the Washington, D.C. screening of “Truthland” went down as a successful event – and hopefully, an educational one as well. While the panelists have returned home, and the staffers have since returned to work, the issues discussed will, with any luck, help guide thoughtful decisions in the weeks and months to come.