Under the Surface
Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale
By Tom Wilber
(Cornell University Press, Hardcover, 9780801450167, 280pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
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In Under the Surface, Tom Wilber weaves a narrative tracing the consequences of shale gas development in northeast Pennsylvania and central New York through the perspective of various stakeholders. Wilber's evenhanded treatment explains how the revolutionary process of fracking has changed both access to our domestic energy reserves and the lives of people living over them. He gives a voice to all constituencies, including farmers and landowners tempted by the prospects of wealth but wary of the consequences; policymakers struggling with divisive issues concerning free enterprise, ecology, and public health; and activists coordinating campaigns based on their respective visions of economic salvation and environmental ruin. For the paperback edition, Wilber has written a new chapter and epilogue covering developments since the book's initial publication in 2012. Chief among these are the home rule movement and accompanying social and legal events leading up to an unprecedented ban of fracking in New York state, and the outcome of the federal EPA's investigation of water pollution just across the state border in Dimock, Pennsylvania. The industry, with powerful political allies, effectively challenged the federal government's attempts to intervene in drilling communities in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Texas with water problems. But it met its match in a grassroots movement known as "fractivism" that sprouted from seeds sown in upstate New York community halls and grew into one of the state's most influential environmental movements since Love Canal. Throughout the book, Wilber illustrates otherwise dense policy and legal issues in human terms and shows how ordinary people can affect extraordinary events.