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The federal Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a nationwide study to determine if the process used to extract gas from shale creates environmental problems, reports Pro Publica’s Abrahm Lustgarten. “The study, announced Thursday but hinted at for months, will revisit research the agency published in 2004, which concluded that the process of hydraulic fracturing did not pose a threat to drinking water,” Lustgarten wrote. “The 2004 report has been widely criticized, in part because the agency didn’t conduct any water tests in reaching that conclusion.” h

The process of “fracking” shale formations to extract natural gas is being used in deposits all over rural America. One of the largest fields is in southern New York and northern Pennsylvania.

The 2004 study, however, did not look at how gas-bearing shale is currently being fracked — long, horizontal drilling that requires more fluids than vertical drilling. Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act using this study. Residents in seven states have reported water contamination they believe comes from shale gas development.