The state of Wyoming and the federal government seem to be in tune for once on an issue that involves energy development and environmental protection, according to the Wyoming Star-Tribune.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is beginning a comprehensive research study “to investigate the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health.”

The process, also known as “fracking,” is the practice of pressurizing a mixture of sand and various fluids to fracture gas-bearing rock deep underground, creating pathways for the gas to flow toward a well bore.

Fracking has been used in Wyoming for decades. But it wasn’t until the late 1990s that refinements in the process were credited with unlocking huge gas reserves in the Jonah Field and Pinedale Anticline.

Combined with directional drilling, fracking has also unlocked major shale gas plays in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and New York in recent years. But these successes have also sparked complaints from environmental groups and public health advocates, who contend there’s not enough public information about the fluids that are being pumped underground. These critics have asked the EPA to make sure these chemicals are not contaminating drinking water sources.

State regulators and industry officials maintain there has not been a single documented case of contaminated drinking water due to fracking in Wyoming. That may be true, but even if it is, one of the reasons such contamination would be difficult to prove is the fact that each company has its own “recipe” for fluids used in fracking, and such information is considered proprietary and closely guarded.

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