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Future of fracking: wastewater so clean you can drink it?

The technology of fracking is moving so fast that the process is becoming cheaper and cleaner. But the industry and the public are talking past each other.

By Keith SchaeferGuest blogger / September 14, 2012

More than 1,000 protesters marched to the New York State Capitol in Albany last month, demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo ban shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in the state. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is almost finished with a four-year review of the environmental and health impacts of shale gas development and Cuomo is expected to decide soon whether to allow it.

Mary Esch/AP/File


The fracking debate rages on. 

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It’s a divisive issue, no more so than in the U.S. – where 90%-plus of all global fracking is done now, pitting neighbour against neighbour.

On the table from the industry side: more energy produced in our own backyard, more jobs, more tax revenue.

On the other side: environmental concerns, such as the potential for fracking to contaminated drinking water. (That may or may not be true, but it certainly validates the fierce emotion behind the issue.)

Is there any common ground in the debate over hydraulic fracturing?  
Recently I published a success story about a Philadelphia oil refinery that was saved from shut-down.  Stakeholders were able to put aside differences and create a win-win scenario for everyone.
Can the groups on either side of the fracking debate do the same?  

The stakes are now higher than ever. Media reports surfaced in late August that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo may end the ban on fracking the state has had since 2008.  Trouble started immediately. (See more from The Implications of Saudi Arabia becoming a Net Oil Importer.)

The Albany Times-Union reports that roughly 1,200 people attended a march through the state's capital on Monday, August 27, calling on Cuomo to uphold the fracking ban.
"Hydrofracking remains a divisive issue for New Yorkers and presents DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Governor with a political 'lose-lose,'" Steven Greenberg, a pollster at Siena, said. "Whatever decision they make is going to upset as many people as it pleases."
A recent survey from Siena Research Institute found more New Yorkers supported restarting fracking than opposed it... by a razor-thin margin of 39 percent to 38 percent.
Still, the DEC's research notes that the industry could bring more than 17,600 jobs to the state, and potentially as much as $125 million each year in tax revenue, making a strong counter-argument all on its own.
For many, the issue is jobs and royalties vs. the environment. I don’t see it that way, though.  This multi-billion dollar industry--horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking--has been around for 15 years, but really only seen major growth since 2007—five short years ago. 

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