What to Watch on Fracking

Marcellus Shale

Anyone who has seen the documentary film Gasland or YouTube videos of tap water on fire probably has a good idea of the environmental and health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking” involves injecting chemicals, water, and sand into the earth to fracture shale and open fissures through which natural gas will freely flow.

As noted in the film and in numerous nonprofit group materials (e.g., Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, NRDC, NWF, EarthWorks), fracking impacts include well explosions, severely contaminated drinking and surface waters, air pollution, and potentially earthquakes. But the fracking industry is exempt from key provisions of federal environmental laws.

In the face of this regulatory vacuum, the public is moving on multiple fronts. A few things to watch for in 2012 (or sooner):