Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", is a well stimulation process used to extract oil and gas resources. The process involves drilling a vertical well that goes down several thousand feet below the surface and then turns horizontally. A mix of water, sand and other chemicals are pumped down the well under high pressure creating fractures in the formation allowing natural gas to flow into the wellbore and be collected at the surface.
Many of the concerns about hydraulic fracturing have centered on the chemical composition of fracturing fluids, the location of drilling in or near underground sources of drinking water, and the potential health impacts resulting from these activities.
The New York Times recently published an investigative report suggesting a high incidence of radioactive materials and other contaminants in wastes produced as a result of hydraulic fracturing. In addition, the Energy and Commerce Committee found that oil and gas service companies have injected over 32 million gallons of diesel fuel into wells, despite the fact that this practice is an apparent violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Natural Resources Committee has initiated an investigation into the practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.