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Fracking Under Fire

The Securities and Exchange Commission is asking oil and gas companies in the US to provide it with detailed information—including chemicals used and efforts to minimize environmental impact—about their use of hydrofracking.

The federal government’s investor-and-markets watchdog is stepping into the heated environmental debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” according to government and industry officials, even as state and federal environmental officials have begun to bring greater pressure on the industry. The process, which involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground to free difficult-to-reach natural gas in shale basins, has come the center stage of political and environmental discussions.

At the same time the New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is recommending a one-year moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing, after conditionally vetoing legislation that would have permanently banned the practice.

“Fracking” as it is often known, has provoked a fierce battle between environmentalists, who see it as a threat to public health, particularly drinking water, and natural-gas companies, which argue it is safe, and an economic windfall to …

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