A New Day for FracTracker
By Brook Lenker, FracTracker Director
Like the public’s comprehension of the impacts of the shale gas industry, FracTracker is growing and evolving. We’re becoming better suited to expand that comprehension and nurture more inquiry into this game-changing period in energy development.
Our innovative website was launched by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities who passionately and skillfully managed its maturation. Like a college student setting out on his or her own, the time has come for FracTracker to seek its independence and more fully develop its own identity. In December 2011, I was hired as director of the FracTracker Fund at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to shepherd this transition and to foster partnerships that will help FracTracker blossom, benefit public awareness, and synergistically energize our partners. We’re doing this one deliberate step at a time.
Another critical task is to improve the functionality of the data tool – to make it easier to use and navigate and offer other features that attract users to it. We are working with Rhiza Labs and taking additional measures to reach those objectives. We’ll keep you posted about all our enhancements.
My past 15 years – at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and then PA DCNR – were spent in professional roles where I facilitated dialogue, interpreted natural and scientific phenomena, encouraged stewardship practices, and tapped communication tools of many kinds. I intend to judiciously and vigorously apply these skills in my new position. I believe deeply in conservation and environmental justice and am weighted by worries about many facets of the shale gas boom. I’m equally buoyed by the power of people and the transparency of science, however. Truth conquers deception.
The dedication and acumen of my FracTracker colleagues – Samantha and Matt based in Pittsburgh and Karen based near Ithaca, NY – inflate my outlook. We’re a strong team. The league we cavort with is collectively even more impressive. From accomplished grassroots warriors to cutting-edge scientists, connecting and collaborating, sharing data and information, we’re an unequaled force for good.
Gas companies aren’t inherently evil, and the jury is divided on the pros and cons of their primary product, but the stakes are big, enormous, titanic. If drilling occurs, it must be done in a manner that is truly sustainable – for everyone and everything. Sustainability only prevails through thorough, comprehensive, ongoing research and an absolute commitment – by government and industry – to the public interest.
FracTracker resolves, with the help of other teams in our league, to be a broker of reality – to what’s really happening on the ground, in the air, to our water, to our health, to public policy – wherever and whenever gas extraction occurs. Ideally, this service will eventually become unnecessary, unjustified. In the meantime, we’re glad to be “in” the field defending our common future and, as they say, a good defense always wins.