It has been a year rife with debate and development over the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—a method of obtaining natural gas from shale upstate by blasting a solution of water and chemicals into the ground.
In July, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommended against fracking on the watershed—New York City’s drinking water source—but left 85 percent of the land open for private business.
No permits will be issued for drilling until the public comment period closes on Jan. 12, 2012. The DEC will evaluate the public response before making a final recommendation, which the state is likely to codify. Tens of thousands of comments have poured in and the deadline has already been pushed back twice.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report in early December saying fracking was the likely cause of groundwater contamination in Wyoming. It is the first official report to link fracking and contamination—giving fracking opponents hope the practice will be banned, though proponents remain skeptical.
Energy industry leaders have big plans for an ever-increasing supply of natural gas. A majority of New York City voters oppose fracking, though upstate voters are divided: some think the industry will destroy tourism because of changing infrastructure and noise pollution around wells, as well as the chance of pollution; some think it could bring money to an economy still suffering from extreme weather damage in 2011.