See Inside November 2011

The Truth about Fracking

Fracturing a deep shale layer one time to release natural gas might pose little risk to drinking-water supplies, but doing so repeatedly could be problematic

Mike Groll/AP Photo

Is fracking polluting our drinking water? The debate has become harsh, and scientists are speaking out.

Anthony Ingraffea, an engineering professor at Cornell University and an expert on the controversial technique to drill natural gas, has had much to say, especially since he attended a March meeting in Arlington, Va., hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There he met scientists from top gas and drilling companies: Devon Energy, Chesapeake, Halliburton. All had assembled to help the agency determine whether fracking, accused of infusing toxic chemicals and gas into drinking-water supplies in various states, is guilty as charged. The answer lies at the center of escalating controversy in New York State, Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado, as well as Australia, France and Canada.

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