Just a small portion of the massive Marcellus Shale rock formation lies within Maryland, in the western part of the state. It contains large reserves of untapped natural gas, and companies have tried to extract it using a controversial drilling technique called fracking.
During fracking, a fluid is poured into rock to break it up, allowing the natural gas to be extracted. Opponents say fracking leads to contaminated water supplies in the areas where drilling takes place. Now, Maryland is planning to study the technique and other methods to determine which is the safest.
The state also wants to find the safest ways to dispose of waste water from fracking, according to the executive order issued Monday by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley says any decisions the state makes on Marcellus Shale drilling must ensure the safety of public health, groundwater, and surface water. The report will take time, and will be released no later than August of 2014.