Cuomo signals limited NY fracking plan

A woman holds a sign during a New Yorkers Against Fracking rally at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. The group was calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing for gas in the Marcellus Shale region of southern New York. Photo: AP Photo/Mike Groll

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration is close to a decision on how to regulate the burgeoning natural gas industry seeking drilling rights across the upstate region of New York.

Hydraulic fracturing, known more commonly as fracking, is used to extract natural gas from shale rock located miles below the earth’s surface. When a drilling company “fracks” a well, it injects large quantities of sand, water and chemicals into the ground, creating fissures in the sediment that release the gas trapped deep inside. The Marcellus Shale, one of the largest shale formations, lies primarily underneath parts of New York and Pennsylvania, a state where companies — spurred on by the support of Republican Governor Tom Corbett — have drilled rigs on rural land by the hundreds.

Despite industry promises that the hydraulic fracturing process is safe, critics contend that the potential environmental impacts posed by natural gas drilling are not worth what they say may be short-lived economic gains.

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U.S. is due for a sizable quake, but not because of Japan’s

Image adapted from U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard map released in 2008.

Yes, a quake of at least 6.7 magnitude will likely hit the United States soon, experts say, but the disaster in Japan is not an indication that said quake will hit any sooner.

The West Coast is home to two geologic features that make it ripe for major temblors: the San Andreas fault in California and the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest. Both have lain silent for more than a century. Is the U.S. overdue?

Many experts think the answer is “possibly, yes.” The U.S. Geological Survey says there is a 99 percent probability that California, in particular, will experience a  6.7 or higher magnitude quake in the next 25 to 30 years. The probability of a quake of 7.5 or higher in that time frame is 46 percent.

Despite speculation to the contrary, however, the recent disasters in Japan, Chile, New Zealand and Haiti haven’t done anything to increase the odds.

During the week and a half since Japan was shaken by the 9.0-magnitude quake, many academics and science journalists have appeared on television discussing the Ring of Fire, a collection of tectonic plates under the Pacific that includes, among others, the Pacific plate, the Nazca plate (off the western coast of South America) and the Filipino plate (off the eastern coast of the Philippines). The question is frequently posed: Does increased activity in one part of the “Ring” have an affect on the other parts?

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