Is 2012 the year for hydrofracking?

For natural gas companies and eager landowners hoping to tap into New York's vast underground reserves, 2008 was looking like "the year."

The same could have been said every year since.

It's been 3 1/2 years since New York began assessing the risks and benefits of using high-volume hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations that lie deep beneath the state's surface.

And while the state has taken clear steps toward allowing the much-debated technique, the highly polarizing decision on whether to give the green light looks like it will drag on well into 2012 -- if not longer.

"It's going to be the year we decide if democracy exists in Albany," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said about next year. "We have seen a record outpouring of public engagement on this issue, unlike anything I have seen in my 26 years doing this work."

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