The Gasland background story has now collapsed with Fox’s admission it was a NWPOA lease depicted in the movie. Every aspect of the story about a $100,000 signing bonus that came in the mail from a gas company turns out to be a falsehood.
Here is Josh Fox, speaking at the very beginning of Gasland, offering the story line subsequently picked up, without challenge, by literally thousands of reviewers and media outlets:
One day I got a letter in the mail. It was from a natural gas company. The letter told me that my land was on top of a formation that was called the Marcellus Shale which stretched across Pennsylvania…New York…Ohio…and West Virginia and that the Marcellus shale was the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.
I could lease my land to this company and I would receive a signing bonus of $4,750 an acre. Having 19.5 acres that was nearly $100,000…right there in my hand. Could it be that easy?
Certain of the fundamental frauds inherent in this story have been articulated several times already. The lease was a draft developed by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance (NWPOA), not a gas company lease. It was, additionally, developed after Fox said he received his offer. Following the FrackNation exposure of this reality, a public radio station interviewer forced Fox to answer how this could be. He changed his story, admitting it was the NWPOA lease and suggesting he and/or his father (the actual owner of the property) had been members. He claimed to have dropped out before being forced to sign. No one, of course, was forced to sign, which was just the beginning of the deception.
When NWPOA noted they had no evidence of him ever being a member, Fox had Fenton Communications (the activist PR firm associated with NRDC and the Alar scandal) come out with a copy of a widely circulated e-mail to members and prospective members (with no specific addressees) to suggest this somehow proved he had been a member. It didn’t, but it did lead NWPOA to do an even more exhaustive search of their records revealing neither Josh Fox nor Michael Fox were ever members or even prospective numbers of NWPOA. Moreover, neither of their two parcel numbers were ever part of the “leasing pool” as Fox told the Aspen radio interviewer.
Fox’s little coverup charade, nonetheless, locks him into two more major falsehoods. First, the NWPOA lease is very specific as to the amount of the signing bonus. It was not even close to the $4,750 claims. Signed leases are now a matter of public record and while the lease terms varied, with higher values in the northern part of the county, the Fox property was at the southern end. Therefore, it would have not, under any circumstance, have generated more than the $3,000 total signing bonus provided in this example (see Section 2.1 and 2.2), not the $4,750 he told the world in Gasland.
Locals, of course, have known this all along, signing bonuses being a matter of hot discussion among all landowners. Nevertheless, until now, no one in the media has paid attention to this falsifying of a key aspect of the story. It appears anything less than $100,000 sounded like chump change to Fox, so he made up a signing bonus figure that fit the storyline. He apparently had stars in his eyes, just like he did here.
The second falsehood was brought to my attention by NWPOA official Betty Sutliff, who offers the following:
In Gasland Josh Fox claimed that in 2008 he received a lease in the mail from a gas company. He also claimed he had an agreement with that company to not disclose the name of the company that sent him the lease. When it was proven, undeniably, in FrackNation that the lease pictured in Gasland was a draft lease that was made by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance and not a gas company lease, Josh had to change his story.
In a radio interview with Aspen, CO national public radio, he did just that. Josh claimed he was part of the landowner pool that developed the lease and got the same lease as the farmers, even saying, “Duh!” He said they “formally” dropped out “at the stage when they said ok, you have to sign this.”
This presents several new problems for Josh as far as telling the truth. First there was no formal way of dropping out of NWPOA. The members were never under any obligation to remain members and were never required to sign anything.
In reality, NWPOA membership was always fluid with any number of people leaving to sign with another company, unable for whatever reason to stay the course with NWPOA. Even when it came down to crunch time, no one was forced to sign a lease and that was made very clear to the membership. It was not a group lease. Each member received his/her very own lease to either sign or not sign.
But, Fox said they dropped out before signing. However, that only makes his story harder to believe because now the biggest fabrication that Josh will have to try to cover up is his statement that he received the lease in the mail, and he doesn’t have any wiggle room here whatsoever.
All versions of the lease prior to the actual signing were sent electronically. None of the landowners got a hard copy in the mail.
The leases were handed out at the signings, which were held in various neighborhoods. At the signings volunteers sat for hours hand-collating the leases. Volunteers also manned computers on location to print out the cover pages with the lessors’ names on them. The page descriptions showing the parcel numbers and acreage were printed in advance to be inserted into the body of the lease that day. There were boxes and boxes of papers printed in advance so the leases could be assembled on the premises on the day of the signing.
So, how is it that Josh alone received a hard copy in the mail especially if they dropped out before the signings? And how did it arrive in the mail in 2008, a full year before it was even compiled at a signing in 2009?
Quoting Josh, “To suggest we never received a gas lease is insane, absurd.” Well, as far as I’m concerned, to suggest that they did receive a gas lease is insane, absurd.
I would say that Josh has got more ‘splainin’ to do. It’s no wonder he doesn’t want to talk about it!
Betty’s information knocks the final leg out from under Fox’s Gasland narrative. The lease didn’t come in the mail from a gas company. It wasn’t even sent to him by the NWPOA landowners group. It appears, from all the evidence available, that he simply grabbed a copy from someone else associated with NWPOA, fabricated a story around it, added some video of a flaming faucet found two years earlier to have had nothing to do with natural gas drilling, and, presto, Gasland was born (with a little help from Debra Winger and the Park Foundation). That’s what “immersion in reality” thinking will do for you.
Everything in the film was planned, every scene was either scripted or outlined beforehand – but everything really happened, because it was real, in a sense, we were immersed in that reality.
Truth has a way of catching up, though, doesn’t it?