COMMENTARY: Controversial Fracking Documentary To Screen Throughout San Benito County

Investigative News Team Covers Water Contamination in ‘Triple Divide’

San Benito citizens will have a chance to see Triple Divide, a documentary by Public Herald nonprofit journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, as the filmmakers will be on hand for three screenings in the county during this next week. Triple Divide has been called “a bombshell” and “the best documentary on fracking.” Some environmentalists think it might be more provocative than Josh Fox's Gasland.

The screenings will take place:

Friday, August 29, 7pm at the Aromas Grange Hall, 400 Rose Ave., Aromas
Wednesday, Sept. 3, 6pm at VFW Hall, 58 Monterey St.,  San Juan Bautista
Thursday, Sept. 4, 6pm at YES on Measure J Headquarters, 221 5th St., Hollister

San Benito voters will be deciding soon whether or not to ban fracking in this heavy-ag, drought-strapped county.  Hydraulic fracturing uses one to four million gallons of water for each well “frack,” and the wastewater it produces is riddled with acid and chemicals that can never be cleaned out of it.  The Coalition to Protect San Benito, a large group of local residents, farmers, ranchers and vintners, has been successful in placing Measure J to ban fracking on the November ballot. Environmentalists, as well as the oil and gas industry and many lawmakers, are keenly watching what happens in San Benito, as it will be the first local community in the state to rid itself of fracking. Concerned citizens in Santa Barbara and Butte counties followed San Benito’s cue and also placed fracking bans on their ballots.

According to the filmmakers, who do not take a position on fracking, their original reports characterize how, in Pennsylvania, the state “world-class regulations” fail to protect people, communities, and the environment.

“The public isn’t seeing the full impacts to water from fracking either in California or any other state because regulators are mismanaging data, and decisions are made based on politics instead of science,” says Pribanic. “The water impacts we encountered in Triple Divide are systemic, they’re not isolated to a single state, but the public can learn from these experiences to protect their drinking water supplies.”

The journalists aim to bring together people on any side of the issue to discuss solutions. “Pennsylvania has some of the best environmental laws in the country, but clearly it’s not enough,” says Troutman.  “Major problems like the 'Pressure Bulb' effect from fracking, introduced in Triple Divide, can change California’s seismic activity but still aren't a part of state or federal regulations at all.”

Academy Award-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo co-narrates the documentary and added his voice to the project after seeing the film just weeks before its release in March 2013.  Ruffalo’s nonprofit Water Defense investigates water testing and protection measures. He’s also co-founder of the Solutions Project.

Triple Divide’s namesake, the triple continental divide in Pennsylvania, is one of four highly unique watersheds in North America where three major rivers begin and flow to separate parts of the continent, providing drinking water for millions of people downstream.

“This film is the shocking truth about how water and energy connect us all,” said Troutman.

Pribanic and Troutman are touring their documentary across the U.S. after winning a grant from the California-based nonprofit Investigative News Network, with support from the James L. Knight Foundation and Tesla Motors. They’ll drive over 10,000 miles in a Tesla Model S, a long-range, all-electric sedan, and use Tesla’s nationwide Supercharger network where the car can be quickly recharged for free. Their goal is to cross the U.S. using zero gasoline and emitting zero greenhouse gas pollution.

The filmmakers will attend all California screenings for discussion, premiering Aug. 25, 8 p.m. at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium Rotunda Room, hosted by Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community; then Aug. 28 at 7 p.m hosted by Santa Cruz/Live Oak Grange; Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. at Fresno City College, Forum Hall 101; Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at Coffee Bandits in Merced; and Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at Pageant Theater in Chico. For a detailed list, visit  

For video clips see and stay tuned on Twitter @PublicHerald with #TripleDivide.

BenitoLink Staff