Cumberland Times-News

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December 12, 2012

Gas drilling requires caution, residents stress

Chemicals added to water to release gas main concern

CUMBERLAND — Several local citizens advocated a cautious approach to drilling for gas trapped in Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland at a prelegislative meeting with District 1 legislators. The meeting took place at Allegany College of Maryland Monday night.

“I think ... that there should be a moratorium on any effort to proceed with fracking in Maryland,” said Jackie Sams, who said she has followed the issue closely.

In order to get the gas trapped in the shale to the surface, chemicals, water and sand are pumped underground to break apart rock formations and free the gas. The process is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

“The governor’s executive order lays out many complex and important tasks before it can be determined if the risks are acceptable,” Sams said. Sams asked for a legislative moratorium, because the executive order holding off fracking by the governor depended on one person, not the full legislature.

“It (fracking) uses up to seven million gallons of water per fracked well. Water is an incredibly precious resource,” said Desiree Bullard. Bullard said use of water for fracking is a waste of a precious resource. Bullard also supports a legislative moratorium, she said.

Karen Krogh of Frostburg was also concerned.

“I support the moratorium... . It’s very valuable; it will become more valuable over time. As time goes on it will become safer,” Krogh said. “I really don’t trust the industry,” she said.

Tristan Apple of Frostburg said she was “deeply concerned” by the lack of disclosure about fracking chemicals. She asked how emergency responders and physicians could help victims and protect themselves when they did not know what chemicals were being used in fracking fluid.

 Sen. George Edwards said he did not think a permit would ever be issued in Maryland without disclosure being required.

Sams asked a series of questions that needed to be answered about the impact of fracking on the environment, public health, property values and other areas.

“Accidents are very costly,” Sams said. She said tourism in Alabama’s coastal regions has dropped below half of what existed before the Gulf oil spill.

Sams said the industry has resisted funding studies on those issues.

That’s where Edwards stepped in and said that back in 2010, the industry had offered to fund some studies if they could drill some test wells to gain revenues. He said environmentalists did not want to agree to that proposal. Edwards said that while he supported fracking, he also wanted to make sure it was “done right.”

Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel represent areas of the county where Marcellus Shale is present. Edwards also represents all of Garrett County and part of Washington County.

“The industry is making huge strides and advances in drilling,” Beitzel said. “We need energy,” he said.

Marcellus Shale formations throughout the eastern U.S. harbor large untapped natural gas resources.

Sens. Brian Frosh and Jamie Raskin have joined with Delegate Heather Mizeur to pass new limits on fracking in the General Assembly in 2013.

The state moratorium bill, to be introduced by Mizeur in the House of Delegates and Raskin 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 2011 executive order on gas drilling, which also established an advisory commission.

O’Malley’s timetable calls for a final advisory commission report due in 2014; until then, no permits will be issued for drilling Marcellus Shale in the state.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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