I've just finished the longest and most challenging writing assignment of my career. The result, Under the Surface, will be published by Cornell University Press this spring.
Under the Surface is the first book-length journalistic overview of shale gas development and the controversies surrounding it. It focuses on stakeholders in New York and Pennsylvania living over the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. The decisions by landowners to work with or against the companies seeking mineral rights to extract gas from under the land —and the resulting environmental and economic consequences—are scrutinized by neighbors faced with similar decisions, by residents of cities whose water supply originates in the exploration area, and by those living across state lines with differing attitudes and policies concerning extraction industries. There are few people who are unaffected. Landowners tempted by the prospects of wealth but wary of the consequences, activists coordinating campaigns based on their respective visions of economic salvation and environmental ruin, and policy makers struggling with divisive issues involving often conflicting municipal, state, and federal rule making intended to accelerate, delay, or discourage exploration.
Writing a book, in comparison to daily newspaper reporting, is a fairly reclusive experience. While I did some travel to keep up with sources and unfolding events, the project required long stretches devoted to composition that made it necessary to remove myself from the daily (and highly visible) sort of beat work that characterized newspaper career. As Under the Surface goes through proofs and then production, I will be back out on the beat, so to speak, keeping up with daily and weekly events through this blog.