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There are two Yonder stories today on the front page of the Washington Post. The first is by Alec MacGillis, who reports that firms in the Washington, D.C., area are slurping down a good portion of the federal stimulus funds. Rural areas nearby, however, aren’t doing nearly as well. “The way it’s set up, the money’s largely going to places where it’s always been going,” said Karl Stauber, a former undersecretary for rural development in the Agriculture Department who is now director of the Danville Regional Foundation in struggling southern Virginia. “We need to invest stimulus dollars in ways that help create new competitive advantage in places that are now being left behind.” (Stauber is also a Yonder contributor.) 

Elsewhere on the page, Steven Mufson reports on the gas boom now taking place in the Marcellus shale, stretching from West Virginia up into southern New York State. (See map above.) Mufson reports that advances in drilling techniques allow the gas industry to tap the shale and, as a result, “vast gas reserves in the United States are suddenly within reach.” The Marcellus shale alone has enough gas to power the U.S. for 14 years.

Shale gas plays are taking place in Texas, Colorado, Arkansas and Louisiana. While burning gas is less polluting that burning oil or coal, environmentalists in these areas report local pollution problems from the drilling. Mufson reports: “Residents of New York City, which draws drinking supplies from a large watershed that reaches up to the Catskill Mountains, have protested, and Chesapeake Energy has voluntarily announced that it would not drill in the watershed. Gov. David A. Paterson (D) has declared a moratorium on drilling until the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation issues rules, which are open for public comment. A raucous meeting in Manhattan last month ended before even a third of the people who wanted to comment got a chance to speak.” 

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