Fracking: What is it, and Is it Safe?

Workers lay a section of gas pipeline outside the town of Waynesburg, PA in April 2012. It is estimated that more than 500 trillion cubic feet of shale gas is contained in this stretch of rock that runs through parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

In a three-part series that airs on the NewsHour this week, Ray Suarez and producer Merrill Schwerin have taken a sweeping look at the impact of energy production and usage. They’ve covered the switch from coal to natural gas in Colorado and the debate it’s set off between industry groups. They’ve covered a fight by environmentalists to save fragile land in Eastern Utah from drilling. And they’ve brought us the “boomtown” of Williston, North Dakota transformed by the discovery of oil.

In tonight’s piece, Ray looks at the rise of natural gas. One key part of that story is hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. To give you the who’s and when’s and what’s of the process, plus all of the debate surrounding it, we’ve compiled this Storify post.

John Wilson contributed to this report.