ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland House of Delegates has approved charging a $15 fee per acre on energy companies seeking to drill in Marcellus Shale to pay for studies on best practices of natural gas extraction.

The House voted 94-41 on Tuesday for the measure, which would make Maryland the first state to require such a fee.

Supporters say Maryland must move carefully and study the environmental impact of drilling in the Marcellus Shale in western Maryland. But opponents contend Maryland is simply running the risk of chasing job-creating businesses out of the state.

Supporters say the fee would raise at least $1.8 million to pay for studies that currently have no other funding.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where supporters concede it could face challenges.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)