DALLAS, Texas — FrackNation filmmaker Phelim McAleer came to Texas to take on Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of the Denton County town of Dish, a not so vocal anti-fracking activist these days. It was billed as the Great Fracking Debate and was held on Monday, October 27. The anti-fracking activist group FrackDallas sponsored this event which took place as North Texas residents in Denton began heading to early voting polls to determine whether or not to impose a countywide fracking ban.
The two men met for a somewhat wry, low key, civil exchange with sporadic verbal jabs that ran just under two hours including questions from the audience. McAleer wore a hat. Tillman sported the offbeat peel and stick Kathie Glass for Governor button for the little known Libertarian candidate, although the favored conservative in the gubernatorial race is Greg Abbott, currently Texas Attorney General. His opponent is liberal Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth). The issue of whether to frack or not to frack was couched in a longstanding grudge match during the debate.
McAleer, who won the coin toss, went first. He explained why he wanted this debate. He said, “Mayor Tillman has never admitted her fraudulent results. Until Mayor Tillman takes responsibility for these results we can’t have an honest debate.”
McAleer was referring to the discredited 2009 report Tillman commissioned from Alissa Wolf and her firm Wolf Eagle Environmental Engineers and Consultants LLC. Under oath, Wolf admitted that Wolf Eagle compiled the report but did not have a licensed professional engineer on staff.
This report fueled Tillman’s anti-fracking campaign tying his children’s nose bleeds and asthma to area fracking. He wound up in the 2010 anti-fracking film Gasland. One of the executive producers was actress Debra Winger, who even consulted actor Robert Redford for advice on this film, according to a blog post from the Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling.
FrackNation sought to get to the inconvenient truths behind claims made in Gasland as well as bring to light facts which were omitted. Thisincluded unproven claims of earthquakes, unchecked assertions of “weapons grade” uranium in tap water and “burning springs,” or natural gas filled waters set aflame by the stroke of a match. Gasland alleged this was all the result of fracking.
Historical records showed this natural phenomenon of underground gas existed long before fracking, according to McAleer. FrackNation also traced the use of hydraulic fracturing to 1947. The opposition to fracking starting only recently.
During the debate, McAleer stated, “There is no scientific evidence that fracking contaminates ground water. We are talking about industrial process where people drop stuff and do but it doesn’t pollute your water.”
McAleer asked why Tillman, among others, “ignored the 1500 families that said everything was fine” with the drinking water. He was referring tothe families of Dimock, PA, the primary focus of Gasland. Texas was positioned as the heart of the problem that filmmaker Josh Fox said he had to go through in the documentary’s narration.
Tillman was both mayor and resided in Dish, a capitalized town name because of a deal it struck to get free satellite TV from the provider of the same name. The tiny town went from Clark to DISH.
In the debate, Tillman continued to cling to the Wolf Eagle report but suggested that although he might be the wrong guy to say if fracking is efficient, he could say, “it’s not financially viable.”
McAleer shot back with “fracking is remarkably efficient at undermining bad people.” His comment was shrouded in sarcasm intended to highlight that through fracking the U.S. doesn’t need to be energy dependent on foreign oil and gas from “places we buy from,” including the Saudis. McAleer explained that being energy independent from places like Saudi Arabia and Russia means that U.S. dollars aren’t pumped into these other countries bank accounts. In doing so, economically “it undermines these horrible regimes.”
In Texas the oil and gas industry has benefitted more than just the drilling companies. Breitbart Texas has reported on a variety of ways this has been advantageous to the people of Texas including the state’s healthy emergency reserves (“Rainy Day Fund”) and public education.
Still, in Denton, the environmentalists are pushing for a ban, claiming Al Gore-ish levels of global devastation. Tillman whipped out endless environmental softbound studies to flash before debate attendees from the podium but stopped short of pulling out a tin foil hat he actually had with him, perhaps to use as a prop, which he did not.
Previously, Tillman was very active in the anti-fracking movement, traveling to Dimock to bring “fresh water” during the winter of 2009. He also founded Shale Test, on which Gasland filmmaker Fox serves as an advisor. Yet for all the positing of being an involved and well-intentioned anti-fracking advocate, Tillman told Breitbart Texas after the debate that he has not played any role nor has he had any involvement in the current controversial Denton anti-fracking push.
He said he was at the debate to repair an image that he felt had been wrongly painted of him. “I am not extreme,” Tillman said. He held up more studies that he claimed were compiled after the original discredited Wolf report that supported Wolf Eagle’s claims.
However, he disavowed local, state and federal governmental reports that showed fracking to be safe. He said, “I am not going to count on TECQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) or any governmental agency to make a decision for me and my family.”
Tillman asserted that when they left Dish those nose bleeds all stopped.
McAleer called the anti-fracking movement one based on “emotionalism,” ignited by celebrities. He named Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon, Sean Lennon, and Mark Ruffalo among the Hollywood rights in-crowd who trekked out to Dimock and powered a media frenzy in doing so.
In October 2014, the Texas Policy Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) Center for Energy and the Environment substantiated FrackNation’s findings that hydraulic fracturing is far from new.
“Use of liquids to recover shale oil and gas has been in use since the late 1940s, and the fracking process has been used over a million times in the United States alone. Today, an estimated 90 percent of all oil and gas wells in North America are fracked,” TPPF stated.
They explained “there is not a single proven instance of fracking contaminating groundwater.” This was FrackNation’s premise.
And so the debate went back and forth from there. Tillman accused McAleer of being “all foam and no beer.” He said McAleer waged an “ad hominen” attack on him. McAleer charged the former mayor with telling people information based on the fraudulent Wolf Eagle report results.
“Where is the intellectual honesty?,” McAleer posed.
In the end, it is the science that tells the true story and in this case, even federal environmental watchdogs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stood up for fracking.
In May 2011, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified before a U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that there were “no proven cases of where fracking has affected the water.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.