Hundreds of people have turned out in Binghamton for the federal Environmental Protection Agency's final hearings on the natural gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Ann Codrington, who heads the EPA's drinking water protection unit, says she's heard concerns about contamination in communities around the Marcellus Shale region. "We take those concerns very seriously, and that's exactly why we want to do the study and talk to people about how we should focus the study," Codrington says.
Environmentalists like Kate Sinding from the Natural Resources Defense Council want a broad investigation that would also look at all aspects of natural gas production, including road building and waste disposal. "This EPA study represents exactly the kind of investigation we need to be able to answer the questions that so far haven't been answered about the risks," Sinding says.
But the American Petroleum Institute's Sara Banaszak says the study should be focused only on what Congress ordered last year, "not more broadly on whether or not we should be using this 60-year-old technology, or what oil and gas policy should be, but on the potential impacts to ground water from hydraulic fracturing."
Three previous hearings were held in other states that contain the gas deposit known as the Marcellus Shale region. Fracking involves blasting chemical-laced water into the ground to release natural gas. Critics are concerned the process could contaminate drinking water supplies, including New York City's extensive watershed in the Catskills.