07/26/2011 05:23 pm ET Updated Sep 25, 2011

Department Of Energy Tackles Fracking

Drilling is a sensitive term.

In search of cleaner, cheaper options over a year after the BP oil spill, drilling for natural gas has raced to the forefront of a tenuous debate on green energy.

While residents, environmentalists, corporations and local governments alike battle it out over how to establish a secure policy, a federal source is stepping in to provide some clarity.

A ClimateWire report in The New York Times stated that the U.S. Department of Energy is ready to make its presence felt within discussions on the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is focusing on this issue to help balance the fiscal benefits of natural gas with the rationality required to prevent harmful effects on the environment.

While Washington may have a vision of the path to energy prosperity, many communities remain on edge about the prospects of drilling for natural gas.

At the local level, residents in West Virginia are taking action. Hundreds have attended public hearings, pleading for more regulations within the shale gas industry. Topping the list of concerns: fears over a local water supply being overshadowed in favor of economic returns.

"Our water's at stake here. There are problems, and this is an emergency," Maidsville, West Virginia resident John Garlow told the Associated Press.

Similar sentiments surfaced last week in a more urban locale. The Michigan Messenger shed some light on why Detroit's city council voted to ban fracking. Much of the state provides great access to shale. But coupled with that benefit is the presence of the Great Lakes -- a massive supply of fresh water that requires insulation from any drilling drawbacks.

At the state level, Pennsylvania has turned to a financial idea to help regulate its budding natural gas supply. The Keystone State proposal involves gas drillers forking over an "impact fee" -- a form of compensation for any financial hits experienced by surrounding communities. Reuters reports that, like West Virginia, Pennsylvania's recommendations include protections for drinking water systems.

From a federal perspective, the Obama administration has its eye on finding the right practices. Knowing that natural gas is a reliable, cost-effective energy source, Secretary Chu and his team are relying on experience to reduce verbal fissions and increase future prospects.

"Just as there is in deepwater drilling, there's a wide range of practices," Chu told ClimateWire. "We have expertise in a lot of the technologies. That has to be in our sweet spot."