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What the frack should we expect in 2012?

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 12/8/2011, 1:30 p.m.
Fracking Up: New York State continues the debate over gas extraction process

"The development of the Marcellus Shale formation means jobs and investment throughout New York. Right now, these jobs are being created directly across the border in Pennsylvania. New York needs jobs," wrote Pataki. "The April 2011 state jobs report estimates 259,400 upstaters are currently unemployed. An influx of even half those jobs created in Pennsylvania would make a big difference to New York families."

According to Pataki, the same study showed that the average wage in 2010 for jobs in the basic gas industry was $69,995. The average wage in support industries like construction, steel and engineering was $63,967.

But will New Yorkers be willing to accept a good wage at the cost of their health? The record on fracking nationally has been, to say the least, problematic. Last year, inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency warned residents of Pavillion, Wyo., to not cook, drink or ventilate their homes when they showered with water in order to get a more precise picture of the extent of the contamination of monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in the town.

According to a recently released study by the EPA, a couple of monitoring wells were revealed to hold high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical-a solvent called 2-butoxyethanol-commonly used in fracking. The EPA also said the wells contained benzene 50 times the level that's considered safe for people, along with acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.

Cuomo will have to decide whether fracking is really worth the potential health and environmental costs when weighed against possible big profits for the oil and gas industry.