Energy companies exploring for natural gas locked in shale deposits use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to get gas out of the ground. Critics complain the process releases methane into the atmosphere and leaves groundwater supplies vulnerable to harmful chemicals in fracking fluid.
Gwen Lachelt, director of Earthworks' Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said regulations proposed by the Energy Department were welcome but weren't strong enough to be effective.
"While today's report outlines several helpful steps to reduce the environmental costs of natural gas drilling, it is unfortunate that the subcommittee stopped short of calling for the closure of a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act and other environmental laws, leaving communities living amidst the shale gas boom at risk," she said in a statement.
An advisory board on natural gas released an interim report on fracking Thursday, calling for stronger regulation and effective enforcement to make sure onshore exploration is done safely.
Energy companies involved in fracking, and some U.S. states with rich shale deposits, say the process doesn't pose much of a threat to the environment if done correctly.
The Energy Department proposals call on energy companies to conduct testing before and after fracking campaigns to address concerns about the practice.