Cumberland Times-News

January 23, 2013

Gas drilling

Permits canceled, but state should continue study

Cumberland Times-News

—  It appears as though fracking — the controversial method of  natural gas drilling — has become a moot point in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of the Environment  said all gas drilling permit requests in the state have been withdrawn. Instead, companies are focusing on “wet” gas states where the drilling can harvest other saleable compounds.

Environmentalists in Maryland have always been leery of Marcellus shale drilling, citing the many unknowns about the practice of fracking. Hydraulic fracking requires chemicals, water and sand to be pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas trapped in the shale.

Fracking has been under way for some time in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The drilling has been seen either as an economic boon or an environmental diaster, depending on one’s perspective. Marcellus Shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources. The shale formations in Maryland are located only in Garrett and Allegany counties.

In Maryland, a state moratorium bill, to be introduced by Delegate Heather Mizeur in the House of Delegates and others in the Senate, would prevent fracking from occurring in Maryland until the state completes the series of 14 studies laid out in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s executive order on gas drilling, which also established an advisory commission.

Although gas drilling in Maryland apparently is not going to happen anytime soon, the state should proceed with its study.

Nevertheless, economics — rather than environmental concerns — may ultimately decide natural gas drilling’s fate in Maryland. If wet states can produce gas and other materials that are more valuable than those in Maryland, drillers are all but certain to pull out of Maryland for good.