A bill is currently making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature that would put in place a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a natural gas extraction process that has been extremely controversial among environmental activists. Having been approved by the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the bill will now go before lawmakers for a vote, after which it will need to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick to go into effect, according to CBS Boston.
Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production in the United States, but many view it as a threat to both the environment and public health. The practice involves injecting highly pressurized, chemical-laden water into the ground to separate natural gas deposits from rock. Many believe that this method contaminates ground water supplies and despoils natural landscapes. It's also viewed as a perpetuating the country's reliance on fossil fuels for energy, thus leading to more carbon emissions and accelerating warming trends.
Massachusetts itself is not seen as having much potential for producing great quantities of natural gas. The only areas where fracking is being considered are in the western parts of the state, including Pioneer Valley. However, passing the ban would make Massachusetts the second state in the country to do so, following Vermont, which also possesses limited natural gas resources.
Despite the Bay State's relatively small natural gas deposits, the ban shows that the legislature there is committed to developing its renewable portfolio and increasing the availability of clean energy technology, rather than relying on sources that pollute the environment and endanger public health.