State of the Debate: Natural Gas Fracking in New York’s Marcellus Shale

January 2014

Natural gas extraction through high-volume hydraulic fracturing, often used with horizontal drilling (“fracking”), increased by 24 percent from 2006 to 2011, and is projected to grow unabated. One of the most promising sources of natural gas is the Marcellus Shale, underlying several eastern US states, including New York. While production is underway in neighboring states, New York currently has a de facto moratorium on the type of high-volume fracking necessary to extract gas from the Marcellus Shale. In 2008, New York began updating gas drilling regulations to meet state environmental review requirements. The state is weighing the environmental and health risks and economic benefits of fracking, and is navigating overlapping jurisdiction with local, regional, and the federal governments. Although the effects of fracking are largely unknown in New York, residents are learning from Pennsylvania’s experience with fracking and are demonstrating extraordinary civic engagement, mainly against fracking. New York State has a long history of both resource extraction and environmental protection, but fracking is proving to be an intractable issue with high stakes on all sides and no clear resolution in sight.