POWDER RIVER COUNTRY
34 minutes, 2005, miniDV

“Gripping, personal and socially relevant.” DVDtalk.com  (read full review)

“Zugel is working here on the model pioneered by High Plains Films’ founder Doug Hawes-Davis ­ with an eccentric soundtrack juxtaposed to action shots of drilling rigs and heavy equipment and aerial footage of wastewater ponds and gas development scattershot into what used to be empty rangeland. The power of the High Plains model, and the power here, is the human voice.”  NewWest.net  (read full review)

“Heartbreaking and poignant.”  Steve Fesenmaier, West Virginia Library Commission   (read full review)

“POWDER RIVER COUNTRY tells the story of concerned citizens bravely challenging an industry on the development fast-track.” Orion Magazine

“All too often, short-term profits win out over long-term values. Such is the case in POWDER RIVER COUNTRY. This gripping documentary examines the devastating costs of coal bed methane production on otherwise unspoiled land and on the lives of unsuspecting, hard-working Americans.” Timothy McGettigan, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Colorado State University-Pueblo

“The Powder River basin-some eleven million acres-until recently was a place to raise cows, horses, and families, mainly on small homesteads. Those who wanted to escape into its rolling hills, high plains, and big skies found solace in its isolation. But those days are gone. New technology that separates methane from deep-lying coal beds has brought scurrying fleets of large trucks and noisy generator installations to the basin. Probably the most disturbing aspect of this rush for a new source of natural gas is what it does to the region’s water table. Artesian wells that have supplied humans and livestock with warm but potable water for generations dry up almost overnight when water is pumped off the coal to release methane. Earth scientists offer predictions of ten to a hundred years for recovery of these wells-not pleasing to those ranchers and farmers who have signed rather loosely worded contracts with the mining companies. While one might suppose the water removed from coal beds would be usable, apparently it isn’t. High in salt and bicarbonates, the water, according to one of the interviewees in the film, may be used by humans and livestock but is deadly to plants, thereby eliminating irrigation as a viable outlet. The film examines several methods of disposing of the coal bed water, each of which may be problematic. Perhaps the most accurate summary of the whole issue is offered by a field rep of one of the gas companies: ‘It’s a three-legged stool between the landowners, the regulatory agencies, and shareholders of the gas companies. The companies have invested lots of capital in leases, pilot wells, and production of commercial amounts of gas. The capital has to have a competitive rate of return to be attractive to shareholders.’ POWDER RIVER COUNTRY succinctly examines the polarizing issues surrounding this new gas boom. Filmed in Montana near Decker and Colstrip, and in Wyoming near Sheridan, Buffalo, and Arvada.” Montana Magazine

“POWDER RIVER COUNTRY is excellently filmed, produced, and edited. The camera and sound work are combined masterfully in contrasting the disparate images the Basin in quiet solitude, with the Basin overrun with pumping sheds, waste water ponds, gas compressors, dirt roads, dust and truck traffic. POWDER RIVER COUNTRY is a powerful introduction to the real present and future costs of coal bed methane production.” Educational Media Reviews On-Line  (read full review)