Governor O’Malley finally answered the question of if or when to allow fracking in Maryland with his release yesterday of final recommendations for regulating hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Western Maryland. Maryland did apply the breaks and approach the question of whether or not to frack with caution through analysis by the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, unlike Pennsylvania and West Virginia that have rushed to frack. Unfortunately, the commission’s analysis, especially with regards to public health and risks assessment, is seriously flawed and ignores tens of thousands of Marylanders who oppose fracking.
The threats to western Maryland’s economy, water resources, forests and people are very real, even with all of the best management practices in place. Accidents and failures with all aspects of fracking do and will happen. It has become increasingly clear that fracking cannot be done safely, so the safest strategy for drilling for gas in Maryland -- and any state -- is to not drill for that gas at all.
Fracking uses huge quantities of water and undisclosed toxic chemicals to break up shale formations deep underground to release natural gas. New roads, thousands of trucks, new pipelines and compressor stations, and millions of gallons of toxic and radioactive waste accompany the drilling. The federal government has exempt fracking from key provisions of all landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and laws regulating hazardous wastes.
It is critical for the future health of our families, local rivers and streams, and public drinking water supplies that we transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewal energy sources. The demand for fracked natural gas will only increase as liquefied natural gas export facilities open such as Dominion’s LNG export facility at Cove Point located on the Chesapeake Bay. Fracking benefits private oil and gas companies at the expense of our public lands, private property, waterways, drinking water sources, and communities.
Governor O’Malley’s eleventh hour pronouncement to allow fracking leaves the regulatory decisions in the hands of Governor-elect Larry Hogan who sees fracking as a “goldmine” for the state – and the oil and gas industry. With Governor O’Malley’s failure to protect Maryland from fracking, it is now incumbent upon the legislature to do that.