A USGS survey has found huge methane concentrations in well water in New York State. New York State has not yet approved any fracking operations. Some well water just naturally has natural gas in it.
Methane occurs locally in the groundwater of New York; as a result, it may be present in drinking-water wells, in the water produced from those wells, and in the associated water-supply systems (Eltschlager and others, 2001).
The use of hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from these shale formations has raised concerns with water-well owners and water-resource managers across the Marcellus and Utica Shale region (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and parts of several other adjoining States). Molofsky and others (2011) documented the widespread natural occurrence of methane in drinking-water wells in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. In the same county, Osborn and others (2011) identified elevated methane concentrations in selected drinking-water wells in the vicinity of Marcellus gas-development activities, although pre-development samples were not available for comparison.
The iconic scene in Gasland where enough methane emerged from a faucet to light a flame proves nothing about fracking. The industry is vehement that this is a misrepresentation. Perhaps so. The point is that the case against them remains unproven.
This doesn’t mean that natural gas exploitation is a good idea in the absence of a global carbon emissions policy. (In my opinion it likely isn’t a good idea as of now, but on the other hand, given such a policy, shale gas could well help in the transition.)
h/t Andy Revkin