Supporters held a news conference in Annapolis on Monday.
Fracking could be one issue being debated during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly, which will be gaveled into session on Wednesday, Jan. 9th. A bill to put a moratorium on the process until it can be shown not to contaminate drinking water and harm the environment is expected to be introduced in Annapolis by Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur, who introduced a similar measure last year which didn't pass.
Supporters say this legislation is needed to allow the state to study this method before allowing it in Maryland. "If we're going to have fracking in Maryland, industry needs to show that it can conduct this technology consistently without causing flammable tap water, without polluting drinking water, and without causing air pollution equivalent to downtown Los Angeles in rural areas," says Paul Roberts, a winery owner in Western Maryland, who is also a member of the Governor's panel which is studying this issue.
Fracking is drilling down to underground rock formations, and using water, chemicals and sand to extract natural gas. It has been used in states along the Marcellus Shale, which runs through Mid-Atlantic states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
Opponents say fracking has fouled ground water, streams and the air, and they point to Dimock, Pennsylvania, where fracking has contaminated the drinking water wells of several homes in the area for three years. The industry says the process is safe, and the problems cited by critics are not related to the drilling technique.
There has been a de-facto moratorium on fracking in Maryland on orders of the Governor until a panel completes its three-year study of the affects fracking has on the environment, and whether tighter regulations could prevent that.
The panel has recommended drillers have pollution insurance of at least $1-million per loss. It also says drillers should register any mineral rights they negotiate with landowners, and agree to abide by an industry code of ethics. The board is also looking at a tax on gas extracted from Maryland wells to monitor the impact from drilling, and a possible law to protect landowners from surface damage caused by fracking.
Supporters say drilling for natural gas will free the US from dependence of foreign oil, but Roberts isn't buying that argument. "We have a crisis of petroleum use. This isn't petroleum. Natural gas, by and large, is not going to displace petroleum," he says.
Those who favor fracking say it would create jobs, but Roberts says it will also take away jobs. "It doesn't do any good to create a few fracking jobs if you lose a lot of jobs in the businesses we already have. And, in our area, especially tourism," he says.
Opponents of fracking held a news conference Monday in front of the State House in Annapolis.