The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is getting ready to study the health impacts of the shale gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The agency says the study will assess the possible impact of fracking on water and air quality, noise and public safety.
The drilling technique allows energy companies to extract natural gas from shale formations deep underground, but environmentalists have raised concerns the possibility of ground water contamination.
The agency says the study will not recommend for or against hydraulic fracturing. But the study will help inform Governor Martin O'Malley's Commission on Safe Drilling Practices. That commission is due to deliver a final report on whether Maryland should allow fracking in August.