A Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club is warning that drilling for natural gas along the Marcellus shale could contaminate the drinking water in the state’s Lehigh Valley — which, by coincidence, is precisely where the scientist who first identified propane, Walter O. Snelling, lived out the last decades of his life.

At issue is a method of gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which involves injecting a cocktail of water and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to crack rock and release pockets of natural gas. Energy companies are deploying the technique along the Marcellus, a gas-rich rock formation that runs under West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The yield from the Marcellus is “wet” with natural gas liquids, (or NGLs), including propane.

Environmental advocates have said that fracking could poison drinking water for millions of residents around the shale. And a recent New York Times series on fracking’s impact, along with the Oscar-nominated documentary titled “Gasland,” have put a magnifying glass on the issue.

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