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Was it a partisan dispute over natural gas? Or just a lot of hot air? Who the frack knows?
After some huffing and puffing, plans for a screening of a pro-hydraulic fracturing documentary at the Capitol Visitor Center were OK’d by all concerned today, and the movie will be shown as scheduled on Wednesday.
Early today, House Republicans alleged that Senate Democrats initially refused to sign off on a request to show the documentary because of political differences. If true, that would have violated a tradition of allowing Members, regardless of party or position, to use CVC facilities to show non-commercial, non-profit films.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) in a statement to Roll Call this afternoon. “This is nothing more than a partisan gag order on a bipartisan caucus trying to show an educational film.
“Since the opening of the CVC facility, we have strived to operate in the most bipartisan, consistent fashion and are disappointed because this violates the comity that normally prevails,” he continued.
Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.), co-chairmen of the Congressional Natural Gas Caucus, are scheduled to screen the documentary “Truthland” on Wednesday in the CVC, a space that is jointly controlled by the House Administration Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Lawmakers have to submit requests prior to holding official functions there, and the Democratic and Republican staffs of each committee must all sign off for a request to be granted.
Murphy and Boren want to show “Truthland” as a counterpoint to “Gasland,” a documentary that criticizes fracking and was screened in 2010 in the CVC.
The “Truthland” screening will be accompanied by a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker and a former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, among others.
“The movie ‘Gasland’ used hyperbole to portray natural gas development as environmentally ruinous,” Murphy and Boren wrote in a recent “Dear Colleague” letter. “What was fact and fiction in Gasland? ... That was the question one Pennsylvania landowner wanted an answer to. ... Her voyage and the lessons she learned along the way are the subject of a new documentary titled Truthland.”
According to a House Administration Committee Republican source, all Member requests to screen non-commercial, non-profit documentaries are typically approved. A source with House Administration Committee Democrats said “Truthland” did not appear to break from standard operating procedure and that ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) approved the request.
The holdout throughout most of today, Lungren said, was Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Murphy also suggested in a statement that he believed Schumer was blocking the screening.
Nothing of the sort, said Schumer’s committee staff director.
Reporting this afternoon that the screening was good to go, staff director Jean Bordewich said there was no controversy in the lead-up to approval.
“There are four oversight entities that must review and approve CVC event requests. This request was initially questioned by our oversight staff, who asked for more information,” Bordewich said. “Both Democratic and Republican staff bicamerally were reminded yesterday by the CVC staff that it had not been resolved. We reviewed it and it was approved by all parties [Friday] with the same provisions as the event related to ‘Gasland.’ This is standard operating procedure, nothing unusual.”