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Actor Mark Ruffalo speaks out against fracking

Actor Mark Ruffalo is most famous for his work in films like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Kids Are All Right.” But recently, he has turned his attention to a real-life issue. Ruffalo has become an outspoken opponent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas that has divided citizens of upstate New York, where he lives. Need to Know’s Abigail Leonard spoke to Ruffalo about his concerns in this web-exclusive interview. Watch tonight’s full episode for a more in-depth look at the fracking debate.

Producer: Abigail Leonard
Camera: Scott Sinkler
Associate Producer: Alexandra Nikolchev

Need to Know would like to thank the many people who provided us with great images of the Dimock, Pa., and Marcellus, N.Y., communities, especially Terry Wild, Julie Sautner and Frank Finan.

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  • Highland Concerned Citizens

    [...] Actor Mark Ruffalo speaks out against fracking August 27th, 2010 [...]

  • mel

    wow. that is really newsworthy – an actor does not approve of technologies associated with the extractive industries.

    I’m assuming Ruffalo has analyzed the issue and has determined that mountain top removal coal mining is the preferred option. Who knew Hollywood was backing coal?

  • Chris from Roxbury NY

    Mr. Ruffalo is right: 1. why won’t the gas drilling operators reveal what they are putting in the fracking constituents they are mixing with the water? If it is so benign then tell us. If not we can assume it is toxic; 2. When the gallons of water are pumped down with the constituents, what about the water coming back up? What are they doing with that? Dumping it nearby so that it seeps back into the ground water? What is the disposal plan? Do they measure how much of the constituents they pumped down are coming back up with the now contaminated water and how much is left behind?
    Once the gas drilling operators answer these and other questions then the DEP/DEC can do a serious study.
    Thanks Mark for the attention you are giving to this serious matter.

  • korrectamundo

    There is only one thing that we can say with absolute certainty about the so-called collection of “fossil fuels” – of which natural gas is a member.

    From start to finish, you would not want them around without protective clothing and breathing apparatus.

  • Robert Landreth

    Not much balance here. 55 minutes of anti- oil and natural gas industry speculation and five minutes from the other side. Don’t those of us who support PBS financially expect more balance and less prejudice?

    Hydraulic fracturing has been used over a million times by the oil and natural gas industry over six decades in thirty states without a single confirmed case of ground water contamination to date. That is a fact. People who have lived in the middle of this activity for decades in places like West Texas and New Mexico aren’t complaining of the ailments alleged in this program.

    The opponents of natural gas drilling in some states have one common objective: keep drilling rigs and production facilities away from their land. If they stand to receive no economic benefit, can you blame them?

  • ClariceW

    Repeating the drilling industry like “Hydraulic fracturing has been used over a million times by the oil and natural gas industry over six decades in thirty states without a single confirmed case of ground water contamination to date. That is a fact.” does NOT make it true. Wake up out of the psychological hypnosis induced by the prospect of dirty money.

  • Mark Buffalo

    Thank god Mark Ruffalo took a stand. It is about time. Really overdue. Thank you PBS for giving voice to the voiceless. Do you have a tip line? Or a place to suggest stories? Don Rickles has recently come out against the Interval Leasing suit. You should see what he has to say.

  • Boyd Melliah


    One chemical that is used in fracking, according to a person who works in the Oil and Gas Industry in Alberta Canada,is Sulfuric Acid. What else is used is not known.

  • KeithGodfrey

    Now that they can’t do more in NY…they’ve moved across the border into Pa.
    No matter where you work, your employer is required to provide MSDS sheets on every chemical you are exposed to. How can the oil / gas companies get away with not having to do that for anyone near their wells?

  • Dan Trevino

    The fact that it has been done numerous times and there have been no problems reported would not be true. Soil and ground content is not the same and would most definitely could cause an issue. The difference in ground make-up and types of chemical utilized would be key. A unbiased thrid party would be prudent in ending fears and concerns, but when somone keeps it a secret, than suspicion will follow. A third party unbiased study should be done, but before fracking was allowed not after. I guess it is too late for that, and money lines the pockets of politicions and will probably not happen until there is no more gas to be found,and generations of people have been affected.

  • Neil

    A new development that infuriated me was a recent conference, sponsored by the State Department, which was held in Washington, D.C., where natural gas companies gave presentations to representatives from a number of countries about fracking. The purpose of the conference, at least in part, was to offer American technical expertise to these other countries in order to encourage them to investigate fracking as an energy source. The representative at the State Department, David Goldwyn, insisted it wasn’t a trade conference, but it sure sounds like one to me. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the gas companies would want to expand their reach as far as possible, but why is the State Department involved and pimping for the gas companies? How could it be possible for a branch of the US government to advocate for a technology that is presently being studied by the EPA in order to determine the environmental hazards? It’s mind-boggling to me. I wrote to my state’s senators and to President Obama. This sounds like the sort of thing that would happen during the Bush administration (thank you, Dick Cheney), but to have it going on under this administration makes me question the scope of what we’re really dealing with. It’s pretty scary, and bigger than I think any of us realize.

  • Irritated with Hollywood

    Are you kidding me? Does the guy work in the industry, or has he ever? How does one become an expert in the field… if they’ve never BEEN in the field?

    Anyone else think that the government is trying to rule by FEAR? Who else is afraid of fracking? And more importantly, WHY? Buzzwords? Something someone said? Perhaps even a… “completely unbiased” news segment on PBS? Give me a break.

    People think that “big oil” doesn’t care, but I’ll have you know, few people are more concerned with safely drilling and producing (a process by which fracking is required) as people in the oil and gas industry. Ya’ll need a culprit? Look to the media for stirring up trouble. Every chance they get.

  • louise de simone

    Thank God for Mark, Joe L. Jane L. Pat. C. and Josh fox and also without the next VIP Dr. Theo Colborne, all of tech info would not be possible and DCS crew you are all my HERO”s KEEP UP THE FANTASTIC GREAT WORK YOU ARE TRULY SUPERMAN IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THIS ENVIROMENTAL ASSALT!

  • Marilyn King

    We are being deluged with landsmen wanting leases on our land. We, in Eastern Ohio need your help right now! Thanks for your GOOD works! Marilyn

  • Brianna – Need to Know

    @Mark Buffalo — yes, we do have a tipline!, OR you can pitch us stories on the website’s Pitch Room:

  • USPatriots4Sanity

    What’s the difference between a foreign national coming and POISONING Amerca’s precious waters and the GAS COMPANIES knowingly doing that?

    Answer: The 30 pieces of silver congress got to exempt them from answering to the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, in the (Evil!) Halliburton loophole.

    Poisoning America is ECO-TERRORISM, no matter who’s getting paid off.

    Exhume the bodies of fracking victims, autopsy them to find fracking chemicals in their tisues, just as can be found in the innocent dead frogs, rabbits, fish, etc. who are suffering and hold these TRAITORS responsible for criminal negligence.

    Hold congress and state governors and AG’s ACCOUNTABLE.
    Call them and tell them we’re not all fooled.

    Tell them all to GO FRACK THEMSELVES, come November.

    Poisoning water is NOT the answer to achieving energy independence.
    WATER = LIFE, dolts.

  • public citizen

    where is the NEED TO KNOW report THE PRICE OF GAS? It was available on the PBS website, but now its gone. someone has pulled this report about fracturing natural gas in wyoming.

  • Brianna – Need to Know

    The video is down momentarily, but we’ll let you know as soon as it’s back!

  • Brianna – Need to Know

    The video is down momentarily, but we'll let you know as soon as it's back!

  • Diverjgm

    I live and own property in Arkansas. I did not want to sign a lease a couple of years ago when I was told that the oil company wanted to force chemicals and water into the land to flush out the remaining oil from the Talley Sands Plainfield. I was told that over 50% of landowners in the area had signed leases so I had no choice that the process was going to proceed … so I had no choice but to sign.

    Now, the landsmen are swarming the area to get new (oil and gas combination) leases for other land in the area to use the hydraulic fracturing process. Obviously, I am concerned about the water (both ground water and the aquafer). Again, I am being told the same story … over 50% of the land owners have already signed leases so the process is going to happen … there is nothing that you can do to stop the process … so you might as well go ahead and sign … and collect your lease money … because you can not stop the process.

    I just wonder if over 50% of the population have already signed why are there so many land agents just now arriving on the scene and leasing apartments since they plan to be here awhile trying to get leases signed. Also, they refuse to indicate what oil company they represent … just sign here, nothing to be concerned about … TRUST US.

    Arkansas seems to be known as a state that does not have any legislators who are concerned about environmental issues (even though we used to promote our state as The NATURAL STATE).

    Help! How can we organize before we have unusable water and other serious environmental concerns as a result of hydraulic fracturing!

    Obviously, I would love to get money for oil and gas leases/royalties if a safe process was being used to extract the oil and gas … but what are a few thousand of dollars worth when your water and land are ruined? Clean drinking water is worth more than oil and gas will ever be worth.

    Today, we do not have to travel many miles to get clean (chemical-free and safe) drinking water. However, if we do stop the oil and gas companies from polluting our water and land, we will find that we have the same problems with acces to clean drinking water as people in less fortunate countries where a great deal of time, effort, and money are expended to travel great distances for water. At this time, we do not have clean drinking water shortages and water rights wars, but if we continue to give oil and gas companies … a “free pass” … and TRUST THEM … everything will NOT BE OK as they promise.

  • Bronellione

    One more reason that the Dick Cheney should be in prison, he personally did away with the clean water requirments that allow FRACKING to continue. They poison the water wherever they extract the gas.

  • Khawkey

    why do you believe them when they tell you anything. JUST SAY NO AND DON’T SIGN. Then organize. you will only be killing the water, the earth, and ultimately yourself by signing away the land. Seek help from the people who make these films and the organizations that protect the land.

  • What You Need to Know About Hydrofracking | SkyTitles

    [...] for those of you who complain that we don’t feature enough celebrities in our work, “Need to Know” talks to actor Mark Ruffalo about why he opposes fracking. “Need to Know” airs over the weekend on PBS stations [...]

  • Dfranck100

    Fraking is being done, thankfully, in the Marcellus shale PA area, down 6000 feet or about a mile below the water table. The problems with natural gas in the water table in Dimock PA were there many years before any drilling started. Solar, wind and battery are so far off, and only provide a minimal amout of energy, that it is a devious plan to keep the USA dependant on foreign oil. We have plenty of oil and gas on the continental USA but the extreme environmentalists, who support the liberal agenda of the Democrat party, won’t let it be drilled. I can only conclude that these people want the USA to be dependant, to the tune of $1B per day, on middle east despots. Brazil gets almost all their fuel from natural gas. Why not the USA.

  • Stephenvanetten

    I am curious if this approach to harvesting natural gas is a better approach than the controversial fracking techniques.

  • Dan

    My son and daughter work for a fracking company in New York. How many of the people you interview have engineering degrees and have studied the actual process? I know the company my kids work for actually cleans up the methane problem in people’s water BEFORE they even drill. With most water tables at 250 – 300 ft deep, and the fracking done at 6000 ft or more, common sense says that the water will not become contaminated. I feel that if someone has not actually worked in and studied extensively the subject, then their comments are not really relevent.