In the 1930s, oil drillers hit gas deep underground in Pennsylvania, but its inconsistent flow made extraction unprofitable. In the post–energy crisis 1970s, the U.S Department of Energy determined that, until prices rose and technology advanced, the gas would stay in the depths.
In the middle of the last decade, gas prices rose. Energy companies in Texas perfected a horizontal drilling technique to fracture shale and release trapped gas. Attention turned to the sleeping giant beneath Pennsylvania forests and farmlands — the vast natural-gas field called the Marcellus Shale.
Suddenly, lives changed. And while boosters and opponents tussle over benefits and harm, voices in the middle are asserting that drilling is here to stay. Perhaps Pennsylvania didn't prepare well, they say, but now's the time to get it right.
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