Documentary explores impacts of fracking in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania


A new documentary called Triple Divide explores the impacts of fracking in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.  The film comes after an eighteen month investigation into how the impacts are being handled by the government and the gas industry.   The Marcellus Shale contains natural gas reserves and it’s located in a region which runs from New York through the Appalachians.  A bit of the Marcellus Shale comes into the western edge of Virginia and underlies much of the George Washington National Forest.  

Joshua Pribanic is the Editor-in-Chief of, a non-profit investigative news source.  He’s also the co-director and film maker on Triple Divide.

“Well, in the United States we have two main public resources and that is air and water,” says Pribanic.  “And fracking compromises both in the communities where extraction is taking place.  You have air quality problems associated with fracking and you have water quality problems associated with fracking.  And these being the two main resources in the United States that are public, it should be a concern for everyone across the country.”

Fracking is a short for hydraulic fracturing, which is part of the natural gas drilling process.  In fracking, millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals are injected at high pressure into natural gas wells to break rock to release the gas.    

Melissa Troutman is a journalist and filmmaker from Pennsylvania.  She partnered with Pribanic  in 2011 to investigate the impacts of fracking and create Triple Divide.

“The laws put into place to protect people and the environment from the impacts are not being enforced,” says Troutman. “In Pennsylvania fracking is regulated by the state government.  And, of course, we still have federal exemptions for the oil and gas industry from our major protective laws at the federal level.  But at the state level in Pennsylvania the only way people have to protect themselves is through information and transparency.  This is an industry that emits toxic exposures via air and water and land.  And when that’s happening, the state is not notifying the public in a way that alerts people to the fact that they might need to get their water tested, for example, or they might need to keep the children and the animals indoors while a well is flaring half a mile away or so.”

Pribanic and Troutman have also collected data and documents concerning complaints filed in Pennsylvania.  That information is online at 

The pair is touring across the country for the next five months for screenings of Triple Divide.  They are making the trip in a long range all electric vehicle. 

Triple Divide will be shown in Lexington, Virginia at the State Cinema on Sunday, July 6th  at 4pm and in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library on Thursday, July 10th.   Admission is free.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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