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Steve Chiotakis: Well this morning, Congress is scheduled to look into ExxonMobil's planned purchase of natural gas giant XTO Energy. But the hearing may be less about the buy-out than controversial drilling practices natural gas producers use. From the Marketplace sustainability desk, here's Sam Eaton.


Sam Eaton: It's called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Energy companies inject water, sand and chemicals into rock formations. That creates thousands of cracks in the rock freeing up hard-to-reach oil and gas reserves.

But a new study by the Environmental Working Group says the process can also contaminate ground water with known carcinogens, like benzene. That's why the report's author, Dusty Horwitt, says Congress needs to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Right now, oil and gas companies are exempt.

Dusty Horwitt: You know, the industry has talked about the cost that, you know, it will have to pay to comply with these laws that everyone else has to comply with. But they don't talk so much about the cost of cleaning up contaminated water, which can be astronomical.

Horwitt says water contamination in upstate New York, for example, would force New York City to spend billions of dollars building a new treatment plant. The oil industry says fracking is completely safe.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam