The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers

A natural gas boom is underway in the U.S., with more than 200,000 wells drilled in the last decade. In states like Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania and here in Louisiana, residents who live close to the natural gas bonanza have the same questions: What kind of pollutants is the industrial activity putting into their water and air, and are those pollutants making them sick?

In this weeklong investigative series, NPR's science desk explores why there aren't solid answers to these questions yet.

Additional Resources

Learn more about the process of drilling for natural gas with, an interactive website produced by Penn State.

Extensive information about the Haynesville Shale — a huge repository of natural gas stretching across northwestern and central Louisiana — from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

Shale Play is an interactive database of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania; a collaborative project produced by StateImpact Pennsylvania and NPR.

NPR has delved into the economics of, and controversy surrounding, hydraulic fracturing before, with the 2009 series Exploring Shale: The Quest for Natural Gas.


The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers
2:03 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers

Michelle Salvini (left) and Terri DiCarlo take a break from work outside the Cornerstone Care clinic in Burgettstown, Pa. Mysterious fumes have repeatedly sickened clinic staffers, forcing them to evacuate the building several times.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:48 am

Kay Allen had just started work, and everything seemed quiet at the Cornerstone Care community health clinic in Burgettstown, Pa. But things didn't stay quiet for long.

"All the girls, they were yelling at me in the back, 'You gotta come out here quick. You gotta come out here quick,' " said Allen, 59, a nurse from Weirton, W.Va.

Allen rushed out front and knew right away what all the yelling was about. The whole place reeked — like someone had spilled a giant bottle of nail polish remover.

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The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers
11:11 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Slideshow: With Gas Boom, Pennsylvania Fears New Toxic Legacy

The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers
11:10 am
Mon May 14, 2012

With Gas Boom, Pennsylvania Fears New Toxic Legacy


Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:55 am

In Pennsylvania, there's an industrial revolution going on. Battalions of drilling rigs are boring into the earth to extract natural gas from an underground layer of shale called the Marcellus formation.

And as the wells multiply all along the western end of the state, people worry they may be facing another toxic legacy.

The first one came from coal mining. All over the state, you can see bright orange rivers and streams. The aquatic life was killed by acidic runoff from abandoned mines.

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