• Program 2012-13

The Politics of Fracking


September 13, 2012


6–8 pm


CUNY Baruch College, Robert Zicklin Center for Corporate Integrity, 55 Lexington Avenue at East 24th Street, NYC

The process of drilling for natural gas, commonly known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," continues to be a polarizing issue in communities across the country. The promise of a new source of cleaner domestic energy needs to be weighed against the potential environmental dangers fracking may hold.

Fracking has the potential to provide a domestic source of energy that pollutes less than coal and petroleum when burned. Expansion of the practice would provide jobs and income to thousands in many economically depressed areas and may lessen America 's dependence on foreign energy sources. However, fracking requires injecting sand, water and chemicals deep into the ground, presenting the potential for a number of serious environmental dangers to communities. It also requires an enormous industrial footprint and can contaminate groundwater supplies miles from the fracking site.

Recently, the debate over fracking has taken on greater political importance. For example, some residents in economically distressed areas in upstate New York support the process because they believe it will bring jobs and raise property values. Others believe that the potential environmental devastation far outweighs fracking's potential energy and economic benefits. New York 's Governor Andrew Cuomo appears to be seeking a compromise by allowing fracking in selected areas that approve the process on a local level. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council oppose this plan.

Our panel of experts will discuss how fracking is being addressed in the political and policy arenas. Do supporters of fracking exaggerate its economic benefits while understating its environmental harm? To what extent will fracking benefit local communities and not just the entrenched interests of the mining industry? Do opponents overstate the potential for environmental degradation? Should the decision to allow fracking be left to individual communities? If we reject fracking, what are the implications for the development of alternative sources of energy?




Deborah Goldberg – Managing Attorney, Earthjustice; Terry Engelder – Professor, Penn State University; Joe Martens – Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation; Brad Gill – Executive Director, Independent Oil and Gas Association; Walter Hang – President, Toxics Targeting