A water tank truck is seen on the main street in Waynesburg, Pa., on April 13. Scientists say naturally polluted water can rise to the surface of the Marcellus Shale; that finding suggests that frack water could seep out, too.
The nation's boom in natural gas production has come with a cost: The technique used to get much of the gas out of the ground, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has contaminated drinking water. But how often and where this contamination is taking place is a matter of much debate and litigation.
Now, a new study has found natural pathways of contamination — but that doesn't mean the drilling industry is off the hook.
The law grants physicians access to information about trade-secret chemicals used in natural gas drilling. Doctors say they need to know what's in those formulas in order to treat patients who may have been exposed to the chemicals.
But the new law also says that doctors can't tell anyone else — not even other doctors — what's in those formulas. It's being called the "doctor gag rule."
A natural gas drilling rig's lights shimmer in the evening light near Silt, Colo.
Credit Elizabeth Shogren / NPR
Gaby Petron, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA, stands in front of a natural gas well. Several years ago, Petron stumbled upon data suggesting northern Colorado's natural gas production fields were leaking surprisingly high levels of methane into the air.
By Tom Gjelten, Alyson Hurt, Andrew Prince and Avie Schneider | NPR
For many years, natural gas companies have been producing the fuel from "conventional" gas reservoirs, relatively close to the surface and easily accessible. New shale gas production techniques have opened much wider areas for exploration, including the Marcellus area in Pennsylvania and Haynesville area in Texas and Louisiana.