May 12, 2011 at 11:07 PM ET
People living above the natural gas-rich reserves stretching below New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been complaining about bubbly, polluted water caused by the controversial gas mining technique called "fracking" for years. Natural gas companies have been tuning out their concerns. So NYU's Studio 20 and the deep-digging journalists at ProPublica decided to make a new animated music video, to get companies, legislators and voters to finally listen up.
The video raps through the basics of fracking (and just so you know, sci-fi fans, it's got nothing to do with "Battlestar Galactica"). It's a process in which tons of water are pumped underground into gas-soaked shales, releasing the trapped gases. Fracking is an effective way to flush out the fuel, but the used water is laced with toxic, often flammable chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde. If the water isn't cleaned up, those chemicals can spread into the drinking water supply of nearby towns.
Regulations overseeing safe fracking have been lax since 2005, when the U.S. government under President Bush decided that natural gas companies were exempt from following the Safe Drinking Water Act. But since earlier this year, things seem to be changing. In early May, Duke University scientists published a study that for the first time linked methane pollution in the water in some Pennsylvanian towns to the methane leaking out of natural gas pipes, and potentially from fracked fissures. On May 5, U.S. Department of Energy chief Steven Chu announced the formation of a panel tasked with making recommendations for clean ways to extract natural gas.
As for the rap, it may be a good way to spread the message virally — it's already appearing on Rachel Maddow's blog, among other sites — but we'll have to hear more before judging whether or not Studio 20 can quit their day jobs.
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Nidhi Subbaraman is an editorial intern specializing in technology and science coverage at msnbc.com.