Ben Geman | February 28, 2011 | Reposted from The Hill

Two top House Democrats launched an investigation Monday into the potential health risks of drilling for natural gas on public lands.

House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Edward Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.), the top Democrat on the energy subcommittee, asked the Interior Department for detailed information on the prevalence of a drilling practice known as “fracking” on public lands.

During fracking, water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to free valuable natural gas deposits. Activists and environmentalists have long criticized the practice, pointing to the potential for drinking-water contamination and environmental damage.

The New York Times investigation this past weekend fanned the flames of opposition to the practice. The Times reported that chemicals and radioactive materials used during “fracking” pose significant dangers to public health and the environment. Shortly after the story was published, Markey called for “immediate action” from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently conducting a study on the practice.

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