Cumberland Times-News

March 6, 2013

Natural gas fracking ban dies, moratorium still considered

O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 budget includes $1M for studies

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — While a bill that would outright ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has died in a Senate committee, a bill imposing a moratorium on the practice pending studies remains alive in the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 514 was defeated in committee Tuesday and while a companion House Bill, HB 337 remains technically alive, the Senate defeat makes passage through both chambers doubtful.

The bills would prohibit “a person from engaging in the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the exploration or production of natural gas in the state,” according to the language of the bill.

If enacted, the law would essentially ban drilling for natural gas in Western Maryland, since fracturing is necessary to free the gas from Marcellus Shale formations.

However, a bill to place a moratorium on natural gas drilling via fracking remains alive,

The Maryland Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium and Right to Know Act of 2013 remains under consideration by the House of Delegates.

House Bill 1274, introduced by Delegate Heather Mizeur in the House of Delegates, would prevent fracking from occurring in Maryland until the state completes a series of 14 studies laid out in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s executive order on gas drilling, which also established an advisory commission.

O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 proposed budget includes $1 million in funding for Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction studies.

Lack of funding for the studies has slowed the work of the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

Some members of the advisory commission have said they want the industry to fund additional studies and are seeking extensive studies before any drilling occurs.

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.

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 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.”

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