“Gasland II” due out in 2012

A sequel to the Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland,” which argued U.S. natural gas development is posing threats to public health and the environment, remains in production and is expected to air on HBO next year, a spokeswoman for the network said.

A precise run date for the movie as well as exactly what it will cover are not known at this time, the spokeswoman said.

The documentary has been the subject of anxious speculation by the oil and gas industry, which is investing billions to tap vast deposits of natural gas in shales and other dense rock formations from Texas to Pennsylvania. Recent technology advances in drilling and a controversial extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have put the resources within reach.

The first “Gasland” documentary was among the first to bring to the mainstream concerns about drinking water contamination, air pollution and other risks that some have linked to the practice. The film’s lasting image was of a Colorado homeowner lighting water from his faucet on fire, which the documentary suggested was due to natural gas development nearby.

The industry has repeatedly argued that natural gas development is safe and vital to the country’s economic future. In the case of the flaming faucet, industry officials say some rural residents in Colorado and elsewere have been doing the same thing for years because of the presence of shallow gas pockets in the earth. The industry says the gas zones it is after are typically several miles below groundwater supplies. Further, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission investigated the specific well incident cited in Gasland and determined it was not impacted by oil or gas development.

Industry officials have accused “Gasland” director Josh Fox of spreading misinformation about natural gas development, but they have acknowledged his movie resonated with the public.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years, and I hope it’s peaking, is a completely heightened public awareness around hydraulic fracturing and an increase in active opposition,” Tina Conoly-Schuller, president and chief executive of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association said in a speech this month, according to naturalgaswatch.org.

“I hate to credit the movie Gasland,” she said, “but it’s really changed the conversation.”

Chris Tucker, who runs the industry-backed web site Energy in Depth, is already skeptical about a second installment, based on what he saw in the first.

“The problem with the first ‘Gasland’ wasn’t that it was done in the Michael Moore mode, it’s that it was fact-checked in the Oliver Stone mode. Now we have a sequel, and my guess is that most folks who see it will leave thinking it probably shouldn’t have been made. Kind of like Weekend at Bernie’s II. But I guess we’ll have to see.”