Fracking opponents are demanding a moratorium in Maryland.
Opponents want to prevent fracking until the state finishes a comprehensive, science-based review of the impacts of the process. They are concerned with the potential dangers the process could pose to drinking water and public health.
In a commentary post on the website of The Baltimore Sun, Democrat Heather R. Mizeur, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing the 20th District (Takoma Park and Silver Spring) expressed her concern about the practice of hydraulic fracking:
“The gas industry wants you to believe that fracking is perfectly safe. We’ve been bombarded with slick newspaper and TV ads about ‘clean natural gas’ promising new jobs and greater energy independence. What the ads do not mention — but what the media have revealed — are the broken towns and farms and families left in the wake of this process in every state that has opened the door widely: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arkansas, Wyoming, West Virginia and others. When you drill a mile deep and inject explosives, water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals into the earth to force up methane gas, there are many consequences. Methane gets into drinking water, toxins get into rivers, industrial-scale well pads get into rural towns, and even the earth itself shakes, according to the latest estimates of the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Thankfully, there are no fracking wells yet in Maryland, but the industry is pounding at our door. In 2011, as gas companies rushed in to lease mineral rights to a whopping one-quarter of the surface of Garret County alone, Gov. Martin O’Malley established a special commission to look into safety concerns surrounding fracking. The commission was tasked with reporting back to the General Assembly with a comprehensive set of studies. These studies would determine what ‘best practices’ (if any) could prevent the fracking horrors experienced elsewhere,” Mizeur wrote in her letter.
Drew Cobs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, says the group opposes the plan.
In a 2011 poll conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies for the Maryland Petroleum Council, 80% of Marylanders were shown to support natural gas production in the United States, including 60% who “strongly support” it. The poll found large majority support for developing natural gas among both men and women, across all political affiliations, and in every region of the state.
As for producing natural gas specifically in western Maryland, where the Marcellus Shale could provide significant new economic opportunities for the Old Line State, nearly 75% of voters in the state expressed support. Production in western Maryland also had majority support across all demographics polled in the state.
Regardless of public or government opinion, drilling won’t begin quite yet. On June 6, 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order to establish the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative. The initiative was designed to help regulators and state policymakers determine if and how the drilling of Marcellus Shale can be accomplished without causing unacceptable risks to the environment. The final report is due no later than Aug. 1, 2014. A de facto moratorium is in place until 2014.