Even without a single well drilled in 2009, the Marcellus Shale continued to be at the center of a polarizing debate about visions for the future in the southern Finger Lakes and Southern Tier.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation took longer than expected to complete an environmental review of risks associated with drilling. Without a final regulatory framework to deal with unique issues related to Marcellus production, no permits were issued in New York, although drilling ramped up in Pennsylvania.

Residents in Dimock Township, Pa., suffered environmental mishaps that ruined at least 12 water wells and led the Department of Environmental Protection to fine Cabot Oil & Gas more than $250,000, and shut down production for several weeks in September.

In the Southern Tier and Ithaca, 2009 might be most remembered as the year of the Great Debate. Rallies drew thousands of people urging the state to speed up or slow down its regulatory overhaul necessary to begin permitting Marcellus wells in New York.

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