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    Hollywood explores fracking controversy in new Matt Damon film

    A new film starring Matt Damon examines the environmental issues surrounding the debate on fracking and the effect that drilling has on the towns where fracking takes place. Co-starring Frances McDormand and The Office’s John Krasinski and directed by Gus van Sant, Promised Land arrives in stores on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.

    Promised Land tells the story of Steve Butler (Damon), an employee of a natural gas company, who is sent to a small Pennsylvania town with his partner (McDormand) to purchase drilling rights from local farmers on whose land gas deposits have been discovered. Upon their arrival, they find that a representative from an environmental group (Krazinski) that opposes fracking is also in the town, setting up a debate about the environment and economic impact that fracking would have on the town.

    Based on a script by Damon and Krazinski, Promised Land reteams Damon with director van Sant, who previously worked with the actor on the Oscar-winning film Good Will Hunting. The film premiered to good reviews in December 2012.

    Although hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—is still taking place in Pennsylvania, where the film is set, a number of states have taken steps to ban the controversial drilling practice because of concerns about the health and environment effects that it would have on local residents and workers. New York and New Jersey have already passed moratoriums on fracking due to concerns that the chemicals used in the drilling process could cause groundwater pollution. The state of California has also recently proposed a bill that would halt fracking in the state until its environmental impact can be measured.

    Lawsuits have also been filed against the oil and natural gas companies who engage in hydraulic fracturing because of the health effects that fracking can have on workers. Researchers have found that the high volume of silica sand used in the fracking process can dramatically increase a worker’s risk of developing silicosis or lung cancer in as little as five years after exposure. Lawsuits filed against oil and natural gas producers have accused the companies of failing to provide workers with proper safety equipment that could have limited their risk of exposure.