Miners call it "fracking". It involves injecting pressurized, chemically treated water into the ground to loosen deposits of shale, releasing trapped natural gas.
Advocates say fracking is safe; opponents argue the practice contaminates water supplies. As it turns out, Western Maryland sits atop one of the U.S.'s richest natural gas fields, and there are two pending applications from companies that want to drill for gas there.
Robert Summers, Maryland's acting environment secretary, told a Senate committee Tuesday that he wants more federal oversight on fracking. He won’t green-light the drilling until he’s satisfied it can be can be done safely," he added.
"…It can disturb some of the naturally occurring materials, such as methane, within those various layers and it has caused problems in some areas," Summers said during his testimony.
The Maryland General Assembly, which adjourned this week, failed to pass a proposed two-year, industry-financed analysis of hydraulic fracturing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the effects of the process.