Today’s news:

Gennaro film tops Sundance

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) might soon have another title other than politician: movie star.

Gennaro appeared in “Gasland,” an environmental documentary chronicling the natural gas boom that could affect the New York City watershed, which won the special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday.

“Gasland” was the second environmental film Gennaro has been interviewed for in the past three years, the first being “Fuel,” which won best documentary at Sundance last year.

“‘Gasland’ has a critically important message that people need to hear, that hydraulic fracturing, the gas drilling technology that is sweeping the nation, is completely unregulated by the federal government and poses unacceptable risks to drinking water supplies throughout the country, especially New York City’s drinking water from upstate New York,” said Gennaro, chairman of the Council Environmental Protection Committee. “‘Gasland’ puts this national issue into sharp focus and sears it into the public mind. This will lead, I predict, to the reforms and regulations needed to protect us from environmental catastrophe.”

The film, directed by Josh Fox, investigates the impact of the natural gas drilling boom across the country. Gennaro has consistently criticized the New York State Legislature’s approval of a law in July 2008 that allows wells tapping into gas deposits across New York to be located more closely to one another than previously permitted, making it economically feasible for wide-scale drilling to begin near the city’s drinking water reservoirs upstate.

State officials, including Gov. David Paterson, are now debating whether or not to allow the drilling upstate and Gennaro and other environmental advocates have said they are concerned the drilling could contaminate the city’s water supply.

“I had a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Paterson Jan. 22 on this issue, and I made my case once again about how important it was not to allow this to proceed in the city’s upstate drinking water supply watershed,” Gennaro said. “He was very gracious and very receptive, and I hope that translates into permanent protection of the watershed from drilling.”

“Gasland” investigates the use of hydraulic fracturing, a process of extracting natural gas that entails injecting up to 5 million gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground at high pressure to break the rock.

Gennaro and other environmental advocates have said using hydraulic fracturing in the city’s upstate watershed, which provides drinking water to the majority of city residents, could potentially contaminate the water supply.

Last year, the U.S. Land Management Bureau documented that groundwater in Sublette County, Wyo., which has one of the country’s largest natural gas fields and where hydraulic fracturing is commonly employed, had been contaminated with benzene, a substance that has been linked to cancer and nervous system disorders.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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