University of Texas to study gas drilling impacts

May 9, 2011 9:47:52 AM PDT
University of Texas at Austin officials say the school will study the environmental impact of natural gas drilling and whether existing regulation properly oversees a key process that pumps chemical-laced water into subterranean rock. Drillers make rocks known as shale formations more permeable though a method called hydraulic fracturing that allows the gas to flow out. The process has been used for decades, but now companies are "fracking" while also drilling horizontally, a tactic that only became economically viable about 10 years ago.

The school said Monday the $300,000, nine-month study by UT's Energy Institute will explore accusations that "fracking" has led to water contamination and could cause other environmental damage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also studying the issue and plans to release its findings next year.