Fielding the state’s ’fracking minefield

This past week, the new head of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said gas drilling in the massive Marcellus Shale formation is the most daunting environmental issue the agency has faced in its 40-year history. No wonder: Reports and first-hand experience with the natural gas drilling method, called hydraulic fracturing — or hydrofracking — range from horror stories of contaminated drinking water to a economic boon.

New York has had a moratorium on gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale since 2008 while new rules are being developed, even as other states such as Pennsylvania are already doing it.

Meanwhile, those on all sides of the issue are lining up to defend their stands in what is becoming an increasingly heated debate.

“I will put our experts up against up any of those people,” said hydrofracking supporter Jim Smith, a consultant with Corning Place Consulting who does work for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York. “We have scientists, drillers and water hydrologists” who can “debunk” myths, he said.

Countering industry leaders are professionals ranging from Cornell University professors to engineers and watershed watchdogs.

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