5:00am

Fri September 14, 2012
Hydrofracking

Everything you ever wanted to know about fracking*

*But you were afraid to ask?

When the Innovation Trail reporting project launched in 2010, we made it a priority to cover the hydrofracking debate in New York.

Here's a quick recap featuring some of our reports from the past two years:

Explainers

The Department of Environmental Conservation's review of fracking has been going on for four years, and the agency is expected to finish soon. That means fracking could soon be a reality in New York.

Last December, we looked at how fracking works, why it's controversial, and how New York's environmental review process is unfolding.

If fracking is allowed, where exactly would it happen? We built this map in January 2012 to show you where drillers have already applied for fracking permits.

Southern Tier reporter Matt Richmond recently visited Deposit, New York and looks at what fracking means to the people who would be most impacted by it.

Last summer, Innovation Trail alum Emma Jacobs profiled three websites you can use to monitor the gas industry online.

Worried about your well water? Our "Ask a Trail Guide" series explains how to test it.

The environment

Ryan Delaney writes about a study which found a high risk to drinking water from fracking wastewater (the study was challenged by the drilling industry).

Daniel Robison profiles the controversy surrounding research coming out of SUNY Buffalo's new Shale Resources and Society Institute, which found a decline in the number of fracking-related accidents and environmental damage in Pennsylvania.

The most recent version of the DEC's guidelines would ban fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, but allow it in other parts of the state.

The DEC defended its regulations late last year after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found a possible link between fracking and groundwater contamination in Pavillion,Wyoming. The EPA's investigation is ongoing.

Last December Matt Richmond covered a debate by scientists from Cornell over whether natural gas is actually a "cleaner" fossil fuel.

A Canadian company called GasFrac is pioneering a fracking method that uses propane instead of water, but Matt Richmond reports that there are still questions about safety.

Can fracking lead to uranium in water? According to this report by Daniel Robison the answer is a little complicated.

New York has 70,000 miles of rivers and streams running through it, and water monitors are preparing for the arrival of the drilling industry.

Communities are also bracing themselves for an onslaught of truck traffic that goes hand-in-hand with fracking. As Ryan Delaney reports, one well site alone can require more than 3,300 one-way truck trips.

A recent national study found that natural gas pipelines across the country are inadequately regulated.

Legal questions

Two lawyers from Ithaca are working to keep fracking out of New York State. The pair has helped communities throughout the state impose local bans.

Some of those local bans have been upheld in court, but the legal battles are far from over.

Environmental lawyers say they're waiting to see the DEC's final fracking regulations, and they're prepared for a courtroom fight.

Last fall, Emma Jacobs introduced us to a Cortland County clerk who's fighting abusive gas leasing practices.

A state law known as "compulsory integration" has been controversial among fracking opponents. It forces landowners to allow fracking on their property- if more than 60 percent of surrounding area has been leased.

If New York moves forward to allow fracking, there could be a significant rise in the number of landowners subject to compulsory integration.

A Pennsylvania woman talks about how the front lines of fracking can get personal.

Politics

The New York Times reported in June that the state plans to allow fracking on a limited basis in five Southern Tier counties (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga).

Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that the state's ultimate decision will be based on science, and the DEC says it will wrap up its environmental review sometime this year. More recently Cuomo said there is no "timetable" for a decision.

There have been numerous anti-fracking protests at the state Capitol in Albany. A few weeks ago, hundreds of people marched on the capitol. One of the more creative protests involved hundreds of water-powered clocks delivered to the governor's office by fracking opponents asking the state to take more time with its review.

The DEC held a series of public hearings across the state last fall, which attracted an unprecedented turnout (6,000 people). The Innovation Trail covered the meetings in Binghamton, and Dansville. Here's some of what was said at the Binghamton meeting:

In January, there was a last minute rush by fracking supporters and opponents to hand in thousands of public comments to the DEC. The agency received an unprecedented number of comments- over 60,000.

Even movies about fracking have turned people against each other. Daniel Robison covered what happened this summer in Buffalo at the screening of the industry-financed, pro-fracking film, Truthland. The film is a response to the Oscar-nominated documentary, Gasland, which is highly critical of natural gas drilling.

In an effort to counteract local fracking bans, dozens of Southern Tier communities are passing resolutions to support the state's authority to regulate drilling.

At the national level, both Mitt Romney and President Obama have voiced support for gas drilling. 

Last spring, we sat down with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu for a one-on-one interview. Fracking was the first thing we asked him about. He says it is possible to do in an environmentally responsible way:

Economics

The boom in natural gas production across the U.S. has caused prices to drop.

There's still a debate over just how much gas is down in the Marcellus Shale, but earlier this year, the Department of Energy reduced its estimate of unproven "technically recoverable reserve" (TRR) natural gas in by two-thirds. 

Is it possible to quantify the economic impact of natural gas for New York? As Emma Jacobs found out, it's not an easy task.

An industry-backed economic study released last year found that by 2015 shale-gas extraction will account for 870,000 jobs nationally and a $118 billion economic impact (and the study left New York State out of the equation).