The EPA has created an "Eyes on Drilling" tip line for citizens to report non-emergency suspicious activity related to oil and natural gas development.

The agency is asking citizens to call 1-877-919-4EPA, toll-free, if they observe what appears to be an illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity. Anyone may also send reports by e-mail to eyesondrilling@epa.gov. Citizens may provide tips anonymously if they don't want to identify themselves.

In the event of an emergency, such as a spill or release of hazardous material, including oil, to the environment, citizens are advised to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

The creation of the hot line stems from public concern about the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas drilling, which has increased in recent months, particularly regarding the development of the Marcellus Shale formation where a significant amount of activity is occurring.

The EPA is not responsible for issuing permits for oil and gas drilling operations, but some EPA regulations may apply to the storage of petroleum products and drilling fluids. The agency also expressed concern about the proper disposal of waste products and protecting air and water resources.

The EPA said it wants to get a better understanding of what people are experiencing and observing as a result of these drilling activities. It said information collected may also be useful in investigating industry practices.

The EPA is asking citizens to report the location, time and date of such activity, as well as the materials, equipment and vehicles involved and any observable environmental impacts.

The Marcellus Shale geologic formation contains one of the largest-mostly untapped-reserves of natural gas in the United States. It underlies significant portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York, and smaller portions of Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.

Interest in developing Marcellus Shale has increased because recent improvements in natural gas extraction technology and higher energy prices now make recovering the gas more profitable.

Instructions for the tip line can be found at: www.epa.gov/region03/marcellus_shale/tipline.html.