A law making its way through the legislature would make it illegal to practice hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as "fracking") for natural gas in Massachusetts. The law would prohibit fracking for a period of ten years, until the end of 2024. This would make Massachusetts the second state after Vermont to prohibit fracking. The Massachusetts bill would also make it illegal to dump or treat in Massachusetts the wastewater produced by fracking in other states.
The Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has approved the bill and has sent it to the Committee on House Ways and Means. One can follow the progress of the bill (no. 3796) on the website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Fracking is a process in which machines force chemical-laden water deep into the ground, fracturing the rocks and thus freeing natural gas and oil. The byproduct of fracking is toxic wastewater.
Opponents of fracking, including residents living near fracking operations, say that it pollutes groundwater and air quality, causes illnesses in humans and animals, and has been linked to earthquakes.
Massachusetts has few shale gas deposits, although some have been identified in the Pioneer Valley (the Massachusetts portion of the Connecticut River Valley), where most residents use groundwater as their only drinking source.
The Massachusetts Law Libraries has recently acquired a book on the history of fracking and the controversies surrounding it: Under the surface: fracking, fortunes and the fate of the Marcellus Shale, by Tom Wilber (2012).