Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process by which water, sand, and other chemicals are injected into the ground to recover natural gas that is stored inside shale rock. Fracking is a relatively new and booming industry in the United States; gas production from shale rock in the U.S. has risen fivefold between the years of 2006 and 2010.  However, such a fast-growing industry is difficult to regulate, which brings about many concerns regarding the industry’s effect on the environment.
Most opponents of fracking cite the numerous environmental and health impacts that are presumably linked with the extraction process. Contamination of groundwater is a primary concern, as most shale deposits are located near aquifers.  Farmers located near drilling areas have been reporting deaths of livestock, placing the blame on water contamination caused by fracking.  An award-winning documentary entitled GASLAND depicts this and other health hazards that the industry is claimed to have caused. The trailer for GASLAND is shown below, which includes a clip illustrating how a resident’s tap water has become flammable due to contamination.
Advocates of fracking highlight the process as important to the energy security of the United States and the world.  Several land owners are also content with receiving loyalties that drilling companies pay out for using their land.  Along with this, scientists and researchers are working to discover exactly how fracking impacts the environment, if at all. A study led by UT Austin’s Charles Groat reports that the fracking process itself isn’t directly causing contamination, but rather surface operations such as storage and disposal could be to blame. As such, the independent researchers recommend that fracking does not need regulation, but existing regulations regarding drilling should instead be enforced. 
Hydraulic fracturing has truly inspired a heated debate among US citizens. A Quinnipiac poll has reported that 45% of New York residents oppose fracking while 44% are in favor of it.  I personally believe that as time moves on, this relatively new industrial process will eventually be fully understood, allowing for the proper regulations to be put into place that ensures the safety of the surrounding environment. This will only happen with more scientific studies, such as the report that the EPA plans to release this year which describes the effects of fracking on drinking water.  Until then, however, the debate on fracking’s environmental impacts will continue to be an important issue throughout the dawn of this new industry.