Josh Fox, environmental activist and director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, was arrested Wednesday for trying to record video of a congressional hearing on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The hearing, entitled "Fractured Science: Examining EPA's Approach to Ground Water Research: The Pavillion Analysis," was being held by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment in the Rayburn Building in response to a recent EPA report that blames fracking for contaminated drinking water in Pavilion, Wyoming.
Fox, who had set up his video camera at the hearing to record the proceedings for a sequel to Gasland, is now framing his arrest as more than just a partisan attempt to stymie bad press for fracking. For him, it's about the First Amendment.
"There's no two ways about it. They knew we were there, who we were," he says. "We had asked to do our job reporting on what they were up to. They didn't like it, and they decided to put me in jail. That is unconstitutional, and that is a civil rights violation and a human rights violation."
He says that he and his crew requested multiple times to be allowed to attend the hearing but never received a response. Video of the arrest show two police officers escorting Fox out of the room in handcuffs after asking him if he would leave on his own. "This is a public hearing, I'm within my First Amendment rights," Mr. Fox said as he was being led out of the room.
As the arrest was taking place, Brad Miller, Representative from North Carolina and the ranking Democratic member of the Subcommittee, asked Republican Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris of Maryland to stop the arrest and allow Mr. Fox to continue recording, but his request was not granted. "As Brad Miller so aptly put it in trying to get us to stay there through several motions," Fox says, "'All God's children can come and tape this hearing.'"
That was obviously not the case according to the Chairman, underscoring what Fox sees as the broader problem in Congress regarding fracking.
"The Republican members of that committee that decided to take me out in handcuffs have taken a lot of money from oil and gas," Fox says. "I am used to the intimidation tactics and short-term agenda of both this industry and their bought-and-paid-for representatives in Congress."
"It's a perfect metaphor for fracking," Fox explained. "We want this gas out of the ground, and we're just going to destroy all of these places and ignore the negative impacts that are coming down the line in drinking water contamination, civil rights and human rights violations and the continued addiction of society to fossil fuels."
Fox has a court date schedule for Feb. 15.