BOSTON (AP) — A bill aimed at temporarily banning a natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laden water deep into the ground is making its way through the Statehouse.
The Legislature's Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has approved a bill that would create a 10-year moratorium on the technique, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Although the state isn't seen as a rich source of shale gas, there could be limited deposits in western Massachusetts.
Environmental activists argue that fracking can lead to water contamination, illness and damaged rural landscapes. They say the potential problem is heightened in Massachusetts by the fact that many communities in the Pioneer Valley rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. Supporters say the technique is safe and is a way to extract natural shale gas that would otherwise remain trapped underground, helping keep energy prices lower. They argue the new gas resources also will help the country maintain its energy independence.
Northampton Democratic state Rep. Peter Kocot, one of the bill's sponsors, said the measure will help the state protect its drinking water and "ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained."
The bill must still be approved by lawmakers and signed by Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick before becoming law.
Vermont, which is believed to have little to no reserves of oil or natural gas, last year became the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing.
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