Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Set of Tools From MIT Help People Keep Track of — and Stand Up To — Natural Gas Fracking

May 3rd, 2011 | By admin | Category: Lead Articles

New technology developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute for Technology is giving landowners, environmentalists and others concerned about fracking tools to more effectively track and organize opposition to the actions of the natural gas drilling companies who use the controversial technique.

Graphic courtesy of the Children's Environmental Health Center of the Hudson Valley.

“We have a lot of information [about drilling] from the industry, and from the states,” Chris Csikszentmihályi, director of the Center for Future Civic Media, said in a recent story about that detailed how residents of the areas affected by fracking are using the new set of social media tools called ExtrAct, “but very little info from actual people who encounter the industry as regular citizens, adding that, this is one of those “key moments when information will make a big difference.”
The ExtrAct suite to date features three components:
  • WellWatch – offers specific information on every natural gas well in five states, including GPS coordinates and the names of the well operators. Built on a wiki-style platform that lets users contribute information to the site, it also features a forum where people can post comments about personal experiences with fracking and its effects. The developers of the ExtrAct suite say they hope to expand the coverage area to include every natural gas well in the country.
  • Landman Report Card — provides information about the land agents who represent the natural gas drillers and negotiate leases with landowners. Users can browse the site by location, company or even the name of specific land agents to learn more about how these companies and their representatives conduct themselves as they set about trying to cut deals that favor the industry.
  • The News Positioning System — lets users track news stories by location by posting them onto a map of the United States.
According to the press release sent out in connection with the introduction of the ExtrAct set, Colorado anti-fracking activist Tara Meixell worked with the MIT team to “build the extrAct tools, helping citizens and grassroots organizations take advantage of drilling opportunities while mitigating or pushing back strongly against their risks … ”

“Landowners around the country are facing significant challenges when coping with leaking wells, industrial traffic, and air and water pollution. They have serious concerns about their health and property value,“ Csikszentmihályi said in the press release. “The extrAct tools give them ways to document, share, and communicate their experiences. For the first time, a rural landowner in Pennsylvania who is contemplating signing a lease can read about the experiences of a rancher in Colorado who has been dealing with these issues for twenty years. And an epidemiologist, journalist, or regulator using extrAct can survey a wide range of citizen’s experiences.”

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