AUGUSTA — A legislative committee will hold a public hearing Monday on a bill that would require state environmental regulators to establish rules governing the controversial practice known as “hydraulic fracking.”

During fracking, companies looking for natural gas or oil pump massive quantities of water, sand and other liquids into wells at high pressure in order to cause fractures in the rock. Those fractures then allow for extraction of much larger quantities of gas or oil from the well sites than would have been possible through more conventional techniques.

The practice has become widespread in parts of the United States and is now responsible for one-half of domestic oil production and two-thirds of domestic natural gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But fracking is intensely controversial because the chemicals used to fracture the rock can contaminate groundwater as well as surface water when the fluid flows back through the well. Also, research suggests that fracking can increase incidences of earthquakes in an area.

The bill under consideration in the Legislature, L.D. 1453, would order the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules regulating the practice “in order to prevent threats to drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing.” The DEP would have until Dec. 31 to develop those rules and submit them to the Legislature for review under the bill, which was introduced by Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake.

The Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill at 1 p.m. Monday in Room 216 of the Cross Office Building.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH