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Split Estate

Documents the devastating effect that fracking for natural gas and oil is having on the health of families and the environment in the Rocky Mountain West.

A printer-friendly version of this page 76 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Debra Anderson
Produced by Red Rock Pictures, LLC
Editor: Debra Anderson
Writers: Joe Day, Avery Garrett, Jean Wendt
Cinematography: Debra Anderson, Dave Bowden, Doug Crawford
Advising Producer: Michael Mierendorf
Consultants: Mitchell Marti, Tara Meixsell
Original Music: Tim Anderson, Chris Jonas, Music Box LLC, Michael Stearns, Molly Sturges, Ron Sunsinger, Joe West
Narrated by Ali MacGraw

"This film is of value to anyone wrestling with rational, sustainable energy policy." Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico
[Note: Community screenings of SPLIT ESTATE can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Note: There are two versions of this program on the same DVD: the original 76-minute version and a 15-minute version for discussion purposes.

Imagine discovering that you don't own the mineral rights under your land, and that an energy company plans to drill for natural gas two hundred feet from your front door using the controversial technology known as fracking. Imagine another shocking truth: you have little or no recourse to protect your home or land from such development. SPLIT ESTATE maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.

Exempt from federal protections like the Clean Water Act, the oil and gas industry has left this idyllic landscape and its rural communities pockmarked with abandoned homes and polluted waters. One resident demonstrates the degree of benzene contamination in a mountain stream by setting it alight with a match. Many others, gravely ill, fight for their health and for the health of their children.

SPLIT ESTATE zeroes in on Garfield County, Colorado, and the San Juan Basin, but the industry is aggressively seeking new leases in as many as 32 states. They are even making a bid to drill in the New York City watershed, which provides drinking water to millions.

As our appetite for fossil fuels increases despite mounting public health concerns, SPLIT ESTATE cracks the sugarcoating on an industry that assures us it is a good neighbor, and drives home the need for alternatives -- both here and abroad.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2009     Copyright Date: 2009
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-897-X

"Split Estate effectively dramatizes the concentrated costs regularly borne by those who reside on or near the underground energy resources that most of us take for granted. Even reasonably knowledgeable viewers are likely to come away with a heightened understanding of both the politically privileged position of our nation's extraction industries and the role that concerned citizens can play in holding those industries accountable."
Christopher H. Foreman, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Author, The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice

"Split Estate is an excellent and timely look at a critical issue in energy development. Our nation's headlong rush into energy development on public lands sounds fine--until the drilling rig sits outside your backdoor. The government's retention of mineral rights on millions of acres of private land will continue to destroy the lives and dreams of Americans until Congress confronts the split estate problem. Thanks for exposing this dirty little secret legacy from the past."
Jack Tuholske, Fulbright Scholar, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School

"The latest wrinkle in our nation's addiction to fossil fuels is the discovery that we may be able to unlock vast reserves of natural gas by 'fracking' previously impermeable formations. Split Estate is a valuable commentary about the impacts of this development...The film puts faces and personal stories to the dilemma, whether in home videos of flaming bubbles in a creek that provides drinking water or in the faltering steps of a once vibrant, now debilitated woman.
Photographs do not lie, and crisp aerials vividly show the extensive footprint of the drill pads and how they pock the landscape. Infrared night images show that volatile organic carbons, invisible by daylight, are constantly escaping from the gas storage tanks into the air. Animated overlays of drilling activity on satellite images and maps make the statement that the problems of expanded drilling are compelling.
In addition to the feature film, the DVD contained extras that are especially helpful from my standpoint as an educator. These extras provide more information about the legal issues involved and efforts for community action...Split Estate is a powerful tool for helping us reflect on how we will balance the true costs of developing natural gas as our nation's 'bridge fuel to the future.'"
K.K. DuVivier, Professor of Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Author, The Renewable Energy Reader

"Highly recommended for collections with an interest in environmental issues, especially those with a focus on the western United States."
Tom Ipri, University of Nevada, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Eye-opening...This riveting program sounds the alarm on current energy practices."
Candace Smith, Booklist

"The split estate model may work well for gas firms, [but] not so well for people living on affected tracts of land...Split Estate represents a thorough, engaging, and important peek into hydraulic fracturing and natural gas extraction...Environmental health and social impacts are presented with vivid compassion for those living in the middle of a split estate. Recording their experiences creates a compelling case against hydraulic fracking in its current, deregulated form."
Stephanie Malin, Rural Connections

"Split Estate is an eye-opening examination of the consequences and conflicts that can arise between surface land owners in the western United States, and those who own and extract the energy and mineral rights below. This film is of value to anyone wrestling with rational, sustainable energy policy while preserving the priceless elements of cultural heritage, private enterprise above-ground, and the precious health not only of people but the land itself."
Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico

"Split Estate is a moving portrait that highlights important questions regarding the safety of hydraulic fracturing near our local communities."
U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, Colorado

"Tells a powerful story about Americans living with the dirty side of oil and gas development in their own backyards. As oil and gas production expands to more and more places throughout the country, it is essential that communities have the information they need to support policies that protect our health and environment."
Amy Mall, Senior Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council

"You tell an important and compelling story. You have captured brilliantly the issues and are helping tell the story that needs to be spread to a much broader audience."
Gwen Lachelt, Executive DIrector, The Oil and Gas Accountability Project

"A must-see film for any elected official who deals with natural resources issues and the impact that oil and gas extraction can have on a community. Anyone who sees the film will be changed by the experience - for the better."
Brian Egolf, New Mexico State Representative

"I urge our elected leaders--especially those who make decisions about energy development and environmental health in the Rocky Mountain West--to confront and tackle the critical issues raised in this film."
Sandy Buffett, Executive Director, Conservation Voters New Mexico

"We are fighting for our lives here in the Marcellus Shale in NY and PA. Your film may save us."
Diane MacInnes

"From the first viewing, it appears the documentary has teeth that quite literally draw the viewer into the grips of the devastation told by Debra Anderson and the people she interviewed...This can become a vehicle to tell the truth about the devastation of natural gas development, and perhaps persuade those who do not understand this, to say 'no' to this leviathan."
Kathleen Dudley, co-chair Drilling Mora County, NM

"A harrowing documentary of the predatory ruthlessness that fuels America's endless thirst for oil and gas...Energy companies can and will drill for natural gas right outside a family's front door...Above all, Split Estate is not only the plight of the few -- it is about the long-term health and environmental costs of America's addiction to oil, and drives home the need to find alternative energy sources here and abroad. Highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review

"Our DOAS [Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society] chapter purchased the DVD Split Estate for showing in the community...and a lively discussion followed....Here in New York State we are facing a similar prospect, as natural gas drillers are preparing to drill and hydro-frack hundreds of wells both vertically and horizontally, hoping to make millions of dollars in the process. We DO have an opportunity to protect our land and health, and to preserve the beauty of upstate New York State. We DO OWN our mineral rights, and need to protect our homes and land from the driller's lack of concern. We CAN protect our civil liberties and communities and health! One of the best ways to do this is to educate and inform others about the massive hydro-fracking push throughout our area."
Jean T. Miller, The Kingfisher, newsletter of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society

"Split Estate is one of those films that makes you shake your head in disgust...Train ever watchful eyes on corporate practices, on the quality of life they're willing to sacrifice. Maybe you think we need those riches under our good ol' American soil. Maybe these enterprises haven't scratched your surface painfully enough yet. Maybe they haven't started drilling under your quality of life yet."

Select your institution type

DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
The DVD includes two versions of the film, the full 76-minute version and a 15-minute version for discussion purposes. The DVD also includes extended interviews on the Health Effects of oil and gas drilling with Dr. Theo Colborn, PhD, Daniel Thau Teitelbaum, MD and Dr. Kendall Gurdes, MD [12:03]; and on Legal Action with Oil and Gas Plaintiff Attorney Lance Astrella [10:14]. Also included are a short film on Community Action for activists [4:42], the movie trailer, SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.

Host a community screening
Split Estate web site

Awards and Festivals
Emmy Award, Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft - Research
Governor Bill Richardson's New Vision Award
Good Pitch, Silverdocs
Shifty Limetime Award and Third Place, Filmshift Festival
Best of Category, Land Use Issues Documentary, Montana CINE International Film Festival
Best of Festival, SFMUG Short Movie Festival
540 Film Festival Green Screen Award
Best Activism Film Award, Vail Film Festival
Best Picture, Creative Spirit Awards
IDA's DocuWeeks
Planet Green's Reel Impact Documentary Film Series
Starz Denver Film Festival
Black Bear Film Festival Envirofest
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Durango Independent Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival at Yale
Santa Fe Film Festival
Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival
FICMA, Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival
Boulder International Film Festival
Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival
Albuquerque Film Festival
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
les prix d'honneur, International Environmental Film Festival, Kairouan, Tunisia
Greenbuild International Film Festival
Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival, Palmerston, New Zealand
One Earth Film Festival

Air Pollution
American Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Environmental Justice
Natural Resources

Social Justice
Toxic Chemicals
Western US

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... more Reviews

Chuck Jaffee, The Union

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