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Otsego County, NY: The fracas over fracking


Protesters in New York State opposed to gas fracking, mostly over concern of what it will do to ground water. Photo/Hans Pennink-Reuters

  There's this little county in central New York State, better known for home runs than horizontal drilling, but it's sitting on an energy bonanza.

There's natural gas right below it. A motherlode - the kind that of echoes that story 'bout a man named Jed.

Contracts are being waived in front of hardscrabble farmers. And the energy companies want to tap this supply with a controversial technique known as "fracking". 

Fracturing the rockbed using water, sludge and chemicals to release the gas.

But it's also fracturing a small community currently facing a high-pressure courtship from the energy industry, as we hear from Maria Scarvalone, in the heart of a rural American landscape.

Maria's documentary

The Oct 20 Dispatches program

Communities in New York, like elswhere, are split between supporters and opponents of extracting gas by fracking. Photo/Maria Scarvalone

We know the side-effects of fracking are not all swimmin' pools and movie stars.  But there's still more to it. For example, about its relationship to academia and the environment. 

Sarah Koenig is here to enlighten. She's a contributing producer to Public Radio International's This American Life program.

She recently did her own documentary examining fracking issues in Pennsylvania, which sits atop the same Marcellus Basin gasfield that's under Otsego County, New York. 

She looked into the work of pro-fracking scientist Terry Engelder from Penn State University, and Dan Voltz, formerly of the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, who arrived at very different conclusions.

Sarah Koenig, from State College, Pennsylvania

This American Life airs on Sunday nights at 11-pm on CBC Radio 1.  You can hear Sarah's full show documentary called Game Changer here.

UPDATE:  The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will issue rules for the treatment of waste water from fracking.   Read more here

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