It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the fracking and natural gas drilling debate, with the documentary film Gasland nominated for an Academy Award and a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times on the dangers posed by the technology.

The Times story underscored the findings of dozens of reports that ProPublica has published over the past three years, adding new details from previously undisclosed government documents about the amount of radioactive water produced by drilling.

The increasing public interest in the possible dangers of gas drilling comes as the world’s energy companies are placing a multi-billion dollar bet on its potential. At the request of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congress exempted gas drilling from federal regulation in 2005. Since then, industry officials have successfully lobbied against calls in Washington to change the law, calls that have intensified in recent months with new attention on the issue.

For those who want to dive deeper into the complex science and regulatory issues of fracking, we offer a quick breakdown of the key issues.

It’s a subject reporter Abrahm Lustgarten has been covering for ProPublica since July of 2008. In the years since then, Lustgarten and his ProPublica colleagues have criss-crossed the country, interviewing drillers, industry officials and residents from Wyoming to Colorado to Pennsylvania. To listen to a podcast from Lustgarten, click here. To read a detailed account of one man’s fight against water contamination in Wyoming, click here. (Lustgarten received the 2009 George Polk Award for environmental reporting for his investigation of hydraulic fracturing as well as the 2009 Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing from the National Press Foundation.)

Below is a list of 15 of our most important stories, arranged by topic so you can quickly find the information you need. For a list of all the 100 or so stories we’ve written about gas drilling since 2008, you can also visit our gas drilling home page.

Radioactivity

  • Is Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle? – A 2009 analysis of wastewater samples from wells in New York showed levels of radioactivity more than 250 times the federal drinking water standard.

Wastewater

Methane Contamination

Overview

Regulation

Air Pollution