Fracking In New England: Digging For The Truth


The recent discovery of natural gas deposits in Massachusetts has not only uncovered a new potential source of fuel, but also ignited an on-going political debate over the extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), even before any interest has been shown in accessing the deposits.The United States Geological Survey ("USGS"), an agency of the U.S. government, recently published a report outlining the discovery of a large number of natural gas deposits along the East Coast of the United States. The USGS report estimates that the deposits, which span from Florida to Massachusetts, contain 3,860 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The gas is located in large geological depressions called "basins" deep beneath the earth's surface. The basin situated under Massachusetts, known as the Hartford Basin, begins at the Connecticut shoreline and extends up the Connecticut River Valley into central Massachusetts. The part of the Hartford Basin under central Massachusetts is thirty-four miles long and varies in width from three to fifteen miles.

Fracking is an extraction process used to retrieve gas deposits from rock formations deep beneath the earth's surface. See Tiemann and Vann, Hydraulic Fracturing and Safe Drinking Water Act Issues, (Congressional Research Service)(2012). Similar to oil extraction, wells are drilled into the ground to access gas deposits. Id. Pressurized fluids are then injected into the wells to create small new channels or cracks in the gas-rich rock formations. Id. These channels assist with the recovery of gas deposits by increasing extraction rates.Id. Despite the fact that this technique has been used for decades and is currently in use in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Virginia, fracking is an over-politicized, controversial issue. Environmentalists and gas-industry supporters often clash on the benefits and drawbacks of fracking.Compare Ramudo and Murphy, Hydraulic Fracturing-Effects on Water Quality, Cornell University City and Regional Planning CRP 5072 (2010) with Advanced Resources International, Inc., Estimate of Impacts of EPA Proposals to Reduce Air Emission from Hydraulic Fracturing Operations (2012). Fracking is a polarizing issue which has become the subject of a fierce political debate among those with knowledge of the extraction process. However, the general public often knows little about the actual process. Thus, supporters and opponents have tasked themselves with educating the uninformed public, often framing issues simply to garner support for their own position. For example, on December 13, 2012, industry-supported groups and their opponents held a daylong session at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to promote their respective views on fracking.

Non-resident fracking supporters and opponents are already attempting to shape fracking-related issues in Massachusetts. While they possess a tremendous amount of information, these groups typically use politics or biased, one-sided hyperbole to garner support from the uninformed public. However, Massachusetts residents should not allow these groups' opinions, views, or political agendas to influence their decisions on this issue. Whether fracking is suitable for Massachusetts should be based on reliable, unbiased scientific data regarding the true benefits and drawbacks of the process. Obtaining neutral, fact-based information is essential to making informed, meaningful decisions for the future of optimal energy sources in Massachusetts.

For more information about fracking or how to obtain accurate information regarding this topic, please contact David Governo ( [email protected]) or William Gallitto ([email protected]).