© 2022 Innovation Trail

Editor's note: Your Marcellus shale feedback

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Thanks for the mail about our reporting on the economics of hydrofracking in the Marcellus shale.

We've gotten a lot of feedback from listeners about our series about hydrofracking, leading up to the Environmental Protection Agency’s hearings about natural gas exploitation.  We’re really pleased that listeners are responding to our work, so we’d like to take a moment to share some of their input.

First, a quick note about what the Innovation Trail is.  We’re a journalism collaboration between five public broadcasters in upstate New York. 

I’m the Innovation Trail editor, based in Rochester at the project’s lead NPR member station, WXXI. Our reporters are at NPR member stations WNED in Buffalo, WRVO in Syracuse/Oswego, WSKG in Binghamton, WMHT in Albany and WXXI in Rochester.  We operate on support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and our collaborating stations. 

We are not a secret gas company front, as some have charged, or “too clever by far,” as one writer accused.  We are the standard level of clever for a group of journalists who are really committed to upping the quality and quantity of reporting about New York’s economy, and its efforts to leverage technology to revive upstate.

Now, on to your feedback.  Most of the messages we received criticized the Innovation Trail for not focusing heavily enough on the uncertainty around fracking’s environmental effects.  It’s true we didn’t highlight the multitude of concerns about fracking.  The Press & Sun-Bulletin, ProPublica, NPR (a few examples here, here, here and here), and the New York Times have all weighed in on those issues over the past couple of years.  Those outlets, and committed activists, have gotten the conversation around environmental issues going.

What people aren’t talking about enough yet is the way New York is watching Pennsylvania’s every move, to understand how drilling could unfold here.   New York officials are studying (and questioning) job creation data from Pennsylvania, and ordinary citizens are traveling there to see drilling for themselves firsthand.  That's the innovation perspective on this story.  We chose to begin our coverage with these topics, and issues like primary economic effects (jobs) and secondary economic  effects (regional business development) because we wanted to get that conversation started.

And boy, do you guys have a lot to say.  Jobs are a big issue for our listeners, as your feedback makes clear.  A listener in Rochester writes:

Very few local jobs will be created [by drilling] – most drilling jobs are held by people who move around the country with the rigs. The increase in local business will be temporary, because it only takes a few years to get most of the gas out of the ground. The rigs then move on. Most of the money made will go to the gas companies and their stockholders.

Another writer asks:

“… what happens after all the infrastructure is set up and all those people lose their jobs, not a very sustainable situation.

We’ve been wondering that too.  That’s why we’ve been working on another piece in this series, looking at what sort of clean-up costs New York could be saddled with if it does get big into shale drilling – again, using Pennsylvania as a model.  We’re also partnering with a national radio program to co-produce a show about fracking – more details on that collaboration as they’re available.

We are confident that our coverage of drilling and the Marcellus shale has been balanced across our reporting, and we invite you to check out everything that we’ve done on this issue so far (on our blog, and the broadcast versions of our stories here, here, here, and here). Our work is far from over though, so we encourage you to continue the conversation on our Facebook page.  Thanks for engaging with us, and thanks for listening.

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