Effort Underway To Get Fracking Banned In Frederick County

Petitions were delivered Tues. to the County Council.

Frederick, Md (KM)  Petitions with more than 1200 signatures were delivered to Winchester Hall on Tuesday demanding the County Council ban Fracking in Frederick County. “We’ve have had a lot of support from folks in the community, from local businesses and other organizations to urge the County Council to pass a ban on fracking here,” said Thomas Meyer, the Senior Organizer for Food and Water Watch, which is leading a campaign to prohibit fracking in Maryland.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process where water, sand and chemicals are pump deep underground to extract natural gas by breaking up rock. “It’s taken place in several dozen states across the country, and the results have largely been the same across the board: people get sick, people’s water and air are contaminated,” says Meyer.

The fracking debate in Maryland has mostly centered around Alleghany and Garrett Counties, where the Marcellus Shale runs underground. But there are two basins under Frederick County which also contain natural gas: the Culpepper and Gettysburg Basins.

There’s a moratorium on fracking in Maryland until October, 2017.  The process is allowed in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The Department of the Environment has drafted regulations covering fracking which Secretary Ben Grumbles calls the “the most stringent” in the nation. They would  prohibit the process in three watersheds in western Maryland, but would allow it closer to homes and private wells. Operators would be required to place four layers of steel casing and cement around fracking wells to prevent water, gas and other fluids from migrating to other areas, along with the monitoring of surface water and groundwater before and after drilling begins.

But Meyer says these rules won’t do any good. “There’s no evidence that any types of regulations can protect public health or the environment or local economies from the dangers of fracking,” he said.

“Places  like Frederick County, or western Maryland and other part of the state where there’s a sustainable economy that relies on good farmland, tourism and recreation, having fracking here not only puts people’s health and safety in jeopardy, but it would totally change the character of the area and potentially really damage the sustainable economy that’s already in place,” says Meyer.

When the petitions were delivered to Winchester Hall on Tuesday, Meyer says the County Council was not meeting that day. “The response so far, from {Council} President Bud Otis and County Executive Jan Gardner has been basically ‘well, we don’t think  that’s going to happen in Frederick,and it looks like the state might want to ban it or it’s going to be regulated so we’re not going to worry about it too much here,'” says Meyer. he called that attitude “cavalier.”

Meyer says Food and Water Watch will continue its efforts to ban fracking in Frederick County and the rest of Maryland. “We’re going to organize. The fight is both in Frederick County and across the state. And we know that the only way to win is to organize people at the grass roots level,” he says.

By Kevin McManus