HYDRAULIC FRACTURING:

Filmmaker stirs up fracking foes, overshadows GOP hearing

Updated at 5:23 p.m. EST.

There's no use chanting "Free Josh Fox!" He's already free. And he's scheduled his first interview about being arrested today by Capitol Police.

Fox, the anti-drilling documentary filmmaker, was released shortly after his arrest this morning while trying to film a House Science subcommittee hearing without permission (Greenwire, Feb. 1).

He was led out of the hearing room, taken to a Capitol Police station, fingerprinted and released after being charged with unlawful entrance, Fox said in an email exchange with E&ENews PM. MSNBC has announced he will give his "first interview" since the incident on "The Ed Show" tonight at 8 p.m. EST.

But Fox had already told The New York Times that his arrest "is emblematic of what is happening across the world."

Fox's ouster overshadowed a hearing called by committee Republicans to criticize EPA's findings that hydraulic fracturing by natural gas drillers contaminated groundwater around Pavillion, Wyo.

It also elicited howls from drilling critics.

"Wondering what they were trying to hide?" the group Food and Water Watch asked on its Twitter feed. "Us too."

Fox issued a statement late today calling his removal "an act of civil disobedience, done in an impromptu fashion." Fox said he had a court date set for Feb. 15.

"When I was led out of the hearing room in handcuffs, John Boehner's pledge of transparency in congress was taken out with me," Fox said in the statement.

The Republican majority staff of the Science, Space and Technology Committee issued a statement after the hearing stressing that Fox was not properly credentialed.

"The individual removed was not accredited by the House Radio and TV Gallery and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by Capitol police," the statement says.

Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) added during the hearing that the hearing was streamed live on the Internet and that a webcast was available after the hearing.

Wyoming officials have dismissed EPA's finding that hydraulic fracturing by natural gas drilling companies contaminated the aquifer under Pavillion, as has Encana Corp., the area's primary driller. Both have also disparaged the federal agency's methods and criticized it for not releasing information (E&ENews PM, Jan. 31).

Republicans in charge of the hearing made clear that they share those sentiments, calling the hearing "Fractured Science."

EPA's study found that the contaminants discovered in the aquifer through drilling deep monitoring wells have not migrated upward into drinking water wells.

Fox entered the hearing room with the general public before the hearing began, though a videographer with him was blocked. Fox proceeded to try to record the proceedings. Capitol police gathered around him and led him out just before the hearing began at 10:10 a.m.

"This is a public hearing!" Fox shouted. "I'm within my First Amendment rights!"

Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, protested and said the committee had turned away an accredited ABC News crew before the hearing. The committee statement said that was not the case, saying the ABC News Washington bureau confirmed to the committee it was unaware of sending any crew to tape the hearing. Attempts to reach an ABC News spokeswoman were not successful.

Fox, whose "Gasland" documentary on HBO was nominated for an Academy Award, is working on a sequel. In December, Fox announced he would drive a water truck to Dimock, Pa., after state officials allowed a drilling company to stop water deliveries to people whose wells were contaminated by drilling.

Two New York Democratic lawmakers joined in the denunciations of the arrests. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who represents the upstate region, called Fox's arrest "beyond unacceptable." Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents New York City, said that in the 19 years he has been in Congress, "I cannot recall a chair of any committee or subcommittee having ever ordered the removal of a person who was filming a committee proceeding and not being disruptive, whether or not that person was accredited."

Want to read more stories like this?

E&E is the leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy politics and policy.

Click here to start a free trial to E&E -- the best way to track policy and markets.