To supporters, it’s a 21st century economic boom that will benefit millions across the Northeast. To critics, it could be this century’s biggest national eco-disaster, tainting water supplies for tens of millions.
The it is “fracking” for natural gas buried between the rocks of the Marcellus Shale, a formation that extends from West Virginia and eastern Ohio through Pennsylvania and into southern New York.
Some geologists estimate it could yield enough natural gas to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years.
Fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, injects millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into each well to break apart the shale and release trapped gas.
A drilling boom has been under way since 2008 in the formation, the biggest known deposit of natural gas in the nation.