NMG member Begos wins Beat of the Week

Kevin Begos

Kevin Begos

Pittsburgh correspondent Kevin Begos won this week’s Beat of the Week award for his exclusive story on preliminary results of a federal study that found no evidence chemicals used in fracking had contaminated drinking water in the area.

Whether the now widely used natural gas drilling process damages the environment has been a hotly debated question in the media and on the Internet.

Begos, a skilled science writer who’s a Guid member, has made himself a go-to reporter on the issue. But he didn’t wait for a source to come to him. He’s been tracking multiple environmental studies on fracking, so when one by the Department of Energy passed its one-year mark, he directly contacted the lead geologist, whom he had interviewed before.

Begos started with technical questions, loosening up the scientist. Then he asked the geologist to give him the preliminary results right away, a month before the planned publication. The geologist, Richard Hammack, did so.

Pittsburgh sits atop the Allegheny plateau, under which lies Marcellus shale _ and oil and gas. It’s being drilled by a controversial new method in which water and other chemicals are pumped deep underground under pressure, to release the valuable fuels.

The study had been monitoring fracking fluids injected in wells in western Pennsylvania,  tagging the fluids with markers. That enabled the scientists to conclude the fluids hadn’t migrated into groundwater, as environmental activists have feared.