Covering the Regulation of Shale Gas and Oil Development in the U.S.

Energy policy and developments are always big news, but not always well understood. For example, the process of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," a process that extracts shale gas or oil, is an energy-related topic that is frequently in the news but not always clearly explained.

The Society of Environmental Journalists hosted a two-day Specialized Reporting Institute to guide reporters on the complex legal framework and policy debates surrounding shale gas and oil development. Resources from the SRI and from the Society of Environmental Journalists are gathered here to give all journalists a starting point for their coverage of this current and contentious issue.

The workshop was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Blogs Worth Reading

Shale Reporter, a website with news and opinion concerning development in the Marcellus Shale region, has several blogs on its site.

Shale Forum, an activist website containing much information, lists its blogs here

Twitter Handles to Follow The Energy Information Administration provides information and statistics on energy issues

@BeyondNatGas: The Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas campaign advocates for safe drilling

@MWenergynews: Midwest Energy News, a nonprofit news site tracking issues of interest throughout the Midwest

@fractracker: FracTracker Alliance helps people understand unconventional oil and gas data

@insideclimate: Inside Climate, a Pulitzer-winning nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that covers clean energy, carbon energy, nuclear energy and climate science

@TheDailyClimate: The Daily Climate, an independent media organization working to increase public understanding of climate change, including its scope and scale, potential solutions and the political processes that impede or advance them

Find an Expert

This extensive list includes experts on all angles (and on both sides) of the the fracking issue. Many thanks to SEJ's Dale Willman for compiling these resources:

Mark K. Bowling, general counsel and secretary, Southwestern Energy, based in Houston, Texas;

Walter M. Brasch, author of Fracking Pennsylvania;; tel.: (570) 784-2460

Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel, U.S. Climate and Energy Program;

Stephen Cleghorn, Pennsylvania farmer-activist;

Jared L. Cohon, former president, Carnegie Mellon University, director, Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and chair, Center for Sustainable Shale Development;

Louis D’Amico, president and executive director, Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association;

John Dernbach, professor of environmental law and co-director of the Widener University Environmental Law Center; speaks on the legal aspects of shale development;; tel.: (717) 541-1933

Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences, Penn State and expert on the Marcellus Shale gas play;; tel.: (814) 865-3620

Bernard D. Goldstein, M.D., An environmental toxicologist who has written about the potential for unseen threats to human health caused by shale development;

Ben Grumbles, president, U.S. Water Alliance; served as EPA’s assistant administrator of water under President George W. Bush;

Jason Hutt, attorney, Bracewell and Giuliani; knowledgeable about the national legal landscape, as well as state and local issues associated with the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken plays;; tel.: (202) 828-5850

Anthony R. Ingraffea is Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Cornell University, an expert in modeling and testing of complex fracturing processes and one of the developers of modern fracking techniques; tel.: (607) 255-3336

Susan Packard LeGros, president and executive director, Center for Sustainable Shale Development; tel.: (412) 804-4170

Lisa McKenzie, research associate, Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado; conducts work on air quality around fracking sites;; tel.: (303) 724-5557

Andrew Place, corporate director for energy and environmental policy, EQT Corporation, a natural gas industry operator;

Deborah Lawrence Rogers, executive director, Energy Policy Forum, former financial consultant for several Wall Street firms and member of the Department of Interior’s U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI);

Doug Shields, a former Pittsburgh city councilman who was involved with getting a fracking ban approved in Pittsburgh;; tel.: (412) 422-0272

John M. Smith, lawyer knowledgeable on matters concerning the Marcellus Shale play;; tel.: (724) 745-5121

Sandra Steingraber; distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, biologist and author, writes and speaks on the human rights aspects of shale development;

Sharon Wilson, an activist who has been blogging about fracking in Texas for years;

State Government Contacts

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (part of the state’s Dept. of Natural resources), media contact: Matt LePore,; tel.: (303) 894-2100, x5122 Colo. Dept. of Nat. Resources, Todd Hartman,; tel.: (303) 866-3311, x8665

Kansas Corporation Commission, media contact: Jesse Borjon,; tel.: (785) 271-3269

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Geological Oil & Gas Division, director David Elfert,; tel.: (225) 342-5501

New Mexico Environment Department, media contact: Jim Winchester,; tel.: (505) 231-8800 (mobile)

North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (the state legislature recently passed a law intended to jump-start oil and gas drilling in the state), media contact: Jamie Kritzer,; tel.: (919) 707-8602

North Dakota Dept. of Mineral Resources (because of location, Lynn Helms, the state’s director of mineral resources, is the top regulator in the Bakken Shale play), media contact: Alison Ritter,; tel.: (701) 328-8036

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Ohio’s Oil and Gas Division chief, Rick Simmers, has opened a conversation with other states about how best to regulate earthquakes related to water and gas disposal), media contact: Bethany McCorkle,

Oklahoma Corporation Commission, media contact: Matt Skinner,; tel.: (405) 521-4180

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Scott Perry, deputy secretary, Office of Oil and Gas Management,

Texas Railroad Commission, media contact: Ramona Nye,; tel.: (512) 463-4817

What Others Are Doing

In this section, we link to stories that participants in the SRI have published.

Midwest-born ‘Toxic Avenger’ speaks out in the Marcellus by Kari Lydersen, Midwest Energy News, July 2, 2014

Key Resources

From the SRI

Missed the workshop? Want to review key elements of the workshop? Session videos are now available!

Key Web Resources

Carnegie Mellon University's Scott Institute for Energy Innovation has produced a series of podcasts on the impacts of hyrdaulic fracturing.

Ceres, an advocate for sustainability leadership, mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. The organization published a report on hydraulic fracturing and its water demands, a topical issue as much of the West faces drought conditions.

The Energy Information Administration provides information and statistics on energy issues, including on natural gas development and a weekly natural gas storage report.

The FracTracker Alliance shares maps, data and analyses relating to the impacts of the global oil and gas industry. The organization's website is packed with maps, downloadable data, articles and analyses.

The Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative was formed to monitor employment trends, tax policy, economic development, and the community impacts of energy extraction in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Its website offers extensive charts and data relating to these eastern shale plays. It also worked with the Keystone Research Center to produce cost and benefit case studies of shale gas drilling in four counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the Department of Energy, researches energy development and energy security. The organization published aprimer on modern shale gas development (updated in 2013).

Media Coverage of Fracking

Inside Climate News' coverage of fracking

National Public Radio examined the controversy over the term "fracking" in No Matter How You Spell It, Fracking Stirs Controversy

Pro-Publica, a public interest investigative journalism nonprofit, surveyed research on health impacts of hydraulic fracturing for its report, Drilling for Certainty: The Latest in Fracking Health Studies; the organization's ongoing coverage can be found here: Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat

Radionuclides in Fracking Wastewater: Managing a Toxic Blend, a peer-reviewed article published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives

Advocacy Groups

The Energy and Policy Institute performs research and analysis on lobbyists, front groups, and politicians working to expand our reliance on fossil fuels and slow the development of a clean energy economy. It tracks opposition to renewable energy policy funded and/or organized by fossil fuel interests. The group compiled a report: Attacks on Renewable Energy Policies and a list of groups serving as "front groups" for the fossil-fuel industry to lobby for policy that benefits this industry.

Environmental Defense Fund; EDF works with industry on natural gas issues. Its website has an overview of fracking.

Physicians for Social Responsibility produced a series of reports on the health effects and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy provides a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying reasonable, healthy and sustainable energy options. It has an online database with hundreds of peer-reviewed articles on shale gas and tight oil development.

Oil and Gas Industry Resources

American Petroleum Institute’s primer on hydraulic fracturing

Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), represents independent producers, marketers and service companies. Its website offers extensive information about the benefits of developing shale oil and gas, including a page outlining the hydraulic fracturing process, which includes a list of some of the basic additives used in the fracturing process.


Webinar Replay

Covering Hydraulic Fracking and Its Impact on Economy and Environment, presented by Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central: Gain an understanding of fracking terms and techniques and learn why fracking has become big news in recent years. This Webinar replay is free, thanks to support from the McCormick Foundation.

Self-Directed Courses

Environmental Reporting: An Introduction: Environmental issues touch on a wide range of news stories and reports. But at the same time, science literacy has declined. How can journalists present essential science news in a way that their audience will appreciate and understand? In this course, you'll learn how to tackle stories, translate scientific jargon and find the best sources for your stories. This course will help you gain a deeper understanding of the field of environmental journalism.