By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

This isn’t a call for membership (we really don’t have members, but we do accept donations through the donate button on our home page), it’s a pause for gratitude, reflection, and sharing of good news and good will as we begin 2014.

In our expanding efforts to communicate impacts of the global oil and gas industry and inform actions that positively shape our energy future, the FracTracker Alliance is pleased to have Mary Ellen Cassidy join the staff as Community Outreach Coordinator. Mary Ellen has a diverse background as a teacher, researcher, and program director. She has a passion for energy issues – including promoting awareness of climate change and the need for energy conservation and efficiency – and her research has focused primarily on extractive industries’ impacts on community watersheds. FracTracker’s national outreach and education initiatives will be the thrust of her new role. Those initiatives include an emphasis on crowd-sourced data collection.

Crowdsourcing is – by the Wikipedia definition – “the practice of obtaining needed…services or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people,” and we see great opportunity to learn more about the effects of hydraulic fracturing via observations, photos, and measurements from people across the country and around the world. With Mary Ellen aboard and a new mobile app, our capacity to foster crowdsourcing can blossom and the more we learn, the more we can show, tell, and enlighten.

Mary Ellen also gives FracTracker a missing presence in West Virginia – where many communities are grossly burdened by the heavy foot of shale gas development. While her role is different from our state coordinators, her location in Wheeling presents advantages for partnering with West Virginia organizations and institutions underscoring our vision to be a leading resource on oil and gas issues and a trusted asset to the concerned public. We are rooted in collaboration.

From West Virginia to California, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and everything in between, our work and reach is empowered by our funders, enriched by our partners, and in service of communities and people in need. The first two renew and infuse our vigor; the latter we hope will find renewal in 2014 through the collective efforts of many.

So as we continue our quest for truth and transparency in a new year, I profusely thank my smart, energetic and hyper-dedicated staff – Sam, Matt, Karen, Ted, Gwen, Kyle, and Mary Ellen – for their ceaseless efforts. My appreciation also flows to the FracTracker board– John, Mike, Brian, Ben, and Sara – for their ongoing guidance.

On behalf of the staff and board, I extend a world of thanks to our funders, past and present:

  • Heinz Endowments
  • George Gund Foundation
  • Park Foundation
  • 11th Hour Project
  • Hoover Foundation
  • Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
  • William Penn Foundation

And we thank the multitude of grassroots groups – of various sizes and geographies -and academic researchers who tirelessly address the challenges of unconventional fossil fuels. If we haven’t worked together in the past, perhaps this is the year we can.

Finally, we thank the thousands of people who have visited, who follow us via social media, or met us at conference or training. We hope we’ve been informative, helpful, and invigorative…fueling a new-found energy.