The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was placing wastewater discharges from shale gas production under the Clean Water Act.
"EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility," the agency said.
Deb Nardone, campaign director for natural gas reform at the Sierra Club, said the EPA's decision was a good one for U.S. health.
"Proper treatment of this polluted water is vital to ensure clean drinking water for the millions of Americans that share water with the natural gas industry," she said in a statement.
Energy companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to draw natural gas out of shale formations. The chemicals used in fracking fluid have raised concerns of environmentalists because of possible water contamination.
Energy company Halliburton announced this year it was working on a more environmentally friendly type of fracking fluid.
Energy companies involved in fracking, and some U.S. states with rich shale deposits, say the process doesn't pose a threat to the environment if done correctly.
The EPA's pre-treatment standards would enter into force by 2014.
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