A natural gas free-for-all has swept across the U.S. in recent years, largely due to a gas-drilling tactic called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Fracking lets drillers tap deep, dense deposits of shale gas by pumping water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure, loosening the rock and freeing the gas. This has opened up a vast new supply of natural gas across the U.S. — and a can of worms.


Fracking has ignited controversies from New York to New Mexico, with residents and public health advocates increasingly raising concerns about things like groundwater pollution, air pollution, pipeline leaks and other risks. Officials in some states have tightened regulations amid this backlash, and the EPA is studying possible effects on human or environmental health. Yet fracking continues unabated in many places, namely the Rockies, Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast.


And residents of those areas are exactly whom the Natural Resources Defense Council hopes to reach with a new online tool designed to educate and empower folks in fracking country. Titled "Don't Get Fracked!", the tool offers info and resources divided into categories like "Health Effects," "Your Rights," "Environmental Impacts" and "Resources by State." The NRDC's Amy Mall described the idea in a recent blog post


"We are regularly contacted by people from across the country who have learned that oil or gas drilling is coming to their neighborhood and are seeking credible information," Mall wrote. "The oil and gas industry is expanding by leaps and bounds, and individual citizens do not have the same resources as large corporations. ... State and federal regulations are inadequate, with loopholes for the industry and rules that have not been sufficiently updated to protect public health and the environment. State enforcement of oil and gas rules is also too weak. It is therefore essential that citizens do what they can to protect themselves, and report anything of concern to authorities."


Check out the tool here, and see the map below for a closer look at shale gas hotspots in the U.S. (click to enlarge):


 Map courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration


And for more info about fracking in general, take a look at this explainer from MNN.

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

New online tool helps you not 'get fracked'
The NRDC unveils a new online tool for Americans who face pollution from hydraulic fracturing, aka 'fracking.'